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posted by janrinok on Sunday March 23 2014, @01:07PM   Printer-friendly
from the welcome-to-the-1980s-again dept.

el_oscuro writes:

"In a bizarre twist to the usual failed government IT projects, the Washington Post reports:

Deep in an underground mine in Boyers, Pa., amid 28,000 file cabinets, government workers process the retirement files of federal employees. On paper. By hand. In 2014. This is one of the weirdest workplaces in the U.S. government both for where it is and for what it does. Here, inside the caverns of an old Pennsylvania limestone mine, there are 600 employees of the Office of Personnel Management. Their task is nothing top-secret. It is to process the retirement papers of the government's own workers. But that system has a spectacular flaw. It still must be done entirely by hand, and almost entirely on paper.

'The need for automation was clear in 1981,' said James W. Morrison Jr., who oversaw the retirement-processing system under President Ronald Reagan. In a telephone interview this year, Morrison recalled his horror upon learning that the system was all run on paper: 'After a year, I thought, God, my reputation will be ruined if we don't fix this.'"

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by VLM on Sunday March 23 2014, @06:22PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 23 2014, @06:22PM (#19960)

    Its an example of bad journalism. Look at the claim:

    "But that system has a spectacular flaw. It still must be done entirely by hand, and almost entirely on paper."

    Then look at the actual quotes, where most of the complaining is about other departments refusal to respond to queries. They quote a dude that it only takes an hour to process a problem free claim. The trouble is the long tail.

    They've got 100K retirements annually and 600 people working 2000 hours per year. They are only making on average about 10% progress thru a claim per hour because of pure dilbertism, not lack of a computer.

    If, magically, they could somehow process a "normal" claim instantly, and as per the quotes a normal claim takes an hour, and they get 100K claims per year, thats 100K-hrs per year saved (as if it could ever be instant, LOL). The problem is they've got 600 people times 2000 hours per year, or about 1.2 million person hours worked total. Of which a magic system could remove 0.1 million hours worked.

    I don't think 100K person hours per year can even keep up with running the IT infrastructure required, much less keep up with continuous changes in retirement laws and regs and policies. Especially when IT staff plus the hardware plus the electricity probably is equivalent on a person to person basis of ten times the cost of a claims secretary. Now you've only got 10K person hours, or roughly ... a five person IT team to do the whole thing from end user support all the way to DBA and security guys and the whole pointy haired boss thing. 5 people for 600 users is barely enough to keep the boxes clean of virii and replace mice and MAC (moves adds changes). And thats just to keep even. If you want to "show a financial improvement" you'd have to do the whole IT support and infrastructure with perhaps 1 or 2 people.

    They simply are not spending enough money on to make computerization worthwhile. Computerization, or lack thereof, simply doesn't matter.

    It would be like whining that the only problem with the US "Justice" system is they don't use enough iPads.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by sjames on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:33PM

    by sjames (2882) on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:33PM (#19972) Journal

    They could stand a few more modest improvements though. For example, skip the part about printing the digital records so someone can type them in at the next step.

    When a retirement is planned, they could get all the ducks in a row 2 or 3 months in advance so when tyhe day comes, they can just click the final OK.