Why killing Data.gov is wrong-headed and stupid

An actual, working, highly profitable IT program run by the United States government is unlikely to last out the summer.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

The people who run our government are morons. I'm not saying that because we have a Democratic administration and a Republican House. I'm saying that because all of them, together, are morons.

Case in point: Data.gov.

I'm actually starting to think Sarah Palin might be a better choice as President. She wouldn't have heard of Libya, so she wouldn't have started another war there. To her, Tripoli would merely sound like the name of a club her daughter probably danced at. Either that, or an exotic Italian desert.

Here's where I'm going with this. According to U.S. News & World Report, the cost of our new war in Libya is about $50 million per day. Meanwhile, those crazy bloggers over at Forbes -- a publication that arguably knows a bit about money -- puts the real cost of the Libyan war at about $2 billion a day.

I'll leave it as an exercise for you, Dear Reader, to determine whether we're eatin' it at the level of $50 million or $2 billion a day, but either way, we're spending a tremendous amount of cash.

Apparently one way to get the cash is to close cloud services the U.S. government set up over the last couple of years. As government services go, these cloud operations are pretty astonishing because they actually work -- and don't cost much to keep running.

Data.gov is one of a number of ground-breaking cloud-based services the United States government provides to both government workers and the American people. Data.gov houses a tremendous number of government databases, available for download, analysis, and collaboration.

According to Federal News Radio, the Office of Management and Budget is planning on closing Data.gov, Performance.gov, FedSpace, and the FEDRamp cloud computing risk management site. Shortly after, the gov is going to shutter USASpending.gov and Apps.gov.

Let's keep in mind the difference in costs.

Our boondoggle in Libya is going to cost millions on a daily basis. I'm far from a dove, but you can tell I obviously think this new war is completely ill-advised. By contrast, the entire e-government fund is expected to cost just $35 million this year -- less than the cost of one day of quixotic Qaddafi quelling.

It gets worse, and -- in case you couldn't tell -- this is where I justify my statement that the people who run our government are morons.

See, the e-government initiatives our leaders are clamoring to quash are actually insanely profitable.

That's right. The government's cloud computing efforts are paying off at the level of about 85 to 1. That is, for every buck taxpayers like you and me spend on the e-government program, we're actually saving $85 in other government spending.

Vivek Kundra is the first (and possibly the last) Chief Information Officer of the United States of America. In a March 17 White House blog post, he reported that the government's IT Dashboard initiatives had helped save $3 billion dollars on IT projects.

If you believe the Forbes' numbers, that's enough savings to run the Libyan war for most of today and part of tomorrow.

In the video associated with the post, Kundra goes on to say:

Using this important tool, we identified under-performing high priority IT projects and began an intensive review of these programs, eliminating ineffective projects, reconfiguring others, and targeting IT expenditures more carefully.

So that's where we're at. An actual, working, highly profitable IT program run by the United States government is unlikely to last out the summer.

Your tax dollars at work.

I don't always ask you to write to your elected representatives, but this one deserves your attention. Any government program that costs about the same as the entire box office take of the movie Furry Vengeance, is wildly profitable -- and works -- deserves the attention of our Congress-critters (on one of their good days).

Knife photo courtesy Flickr user drb62.

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