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How Much Did Healthcare.gov Actually Cost?

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The new healthcare exchange site has been the topic of several news stories these past few weeks. Many of them are quoting vastly different numbers for how much it cost to build. You'd think that sites like USASpending.gov or the Federal IT Dashboard1 would be able to give us some idea. But in reality, that's just not how federal spending is reported. healthcare_ladyMuch of government spending is bundled into huge contracts called IDIQs (indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity) that are meant to span many years and may go to multiple recipients. They're a lot like regular contracts except they can have very vague requirements and once the IDIQ itself has been competed, the government no longer has any requirement to compete any contract within that IDIQ. CGI Federal has one of these IDIQ contracts with the Department of Health and Human services. It was signed in 2007, long before the Affordable Care Act became law, and lasts until 2017. Within each IDIQ, the government creates purchase or task orders for specific services, which you can find in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). You can see a list of all the task orders for the CGI Federal IDIQ here. Given a few constraints (was the task order post-ACA? does the description sound like it might contribute to healthcare.gov?) I highlighted in blue my guesses at what task orders might be related to healthcare.gov. I think my guesses err on the over-inclusive side. Even so, if you add them up, it's about $70 million. That's not unheard of for a government website and it's certainly far lower than the $600 million cost that has been reported in some places. But the fact that we can't figure it out shows the dire state of federal spending transparency.

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Announcing Sunlight’s Open Data Guidelines for Procurement

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clearspending_graphicSince we started our new research initiative around procurement in March, we've spent months doing research into policies and data availability relating to procurement at all levels of government, as well as interviewing all kinds of people on the subject. Today we're excited to launch the culmination of our efforts so far, as well as an extension of Sunlight's previous work on our Open Data Policy: The Open Data Guidelines for Procurement.

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Sunlight APIs have a new home

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As building blocks for our tools, our APIs are core not only to our work but also to the hundreds of outside applications and services that they power. (Hold up, what are APIs again?) In the past half year, we have taken your feedback and build a prominent API site that’s accessible from the main Sunlight Foundation navigation. The new API section features completely re-written and re-organized documentation, a summary of the status of each API and an interactive query builder to help developers build their requests. We’ve also added real time statistics for our APIs, so anyone can see their aggregate use over time.

Need inspiration? Want to help?

Aside from accessing our APIs, we have also collected real-life examples of our APIs at work-- just check out the gallery of projects using our APIs to see just some of the projects that can be built with our data. Then head over to the Community tab to see current data projects that we and other OpenGov-ers are working on. You can filter these projects by ones that need technical help, non-technical help and also projects to inspire.

Transparency_HappyHrLearn how to join the efforts on standardizing election data, to detailing key relationships between influencers and politicians, to scraping state level spending data and a whole host of other projects. Have a project you want to add? Submit it here.

Want to meet other developers or get connected?

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Adventures in Government Contracting

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As part of our initiative around procurement, we've been meeting with several experts, inside and outside the government, to get a broad perspective on contracting in the federal government. Many agree that federal procurement suffers from problems, whether it's over-budget, over-time contracts, the limited pool of government contractors, or the over-reliance of government on contractors to perform core governmental functions. What is the real source of these problems and how can we overcome them? Well the answer is pretty complicated, but over the last several weeks, the picture is coming into focus. Across all of these conversations we've had, there are several themes that have consistently stood out. Since we're making an effort to blog about our work as we go, I wanted to step back and summarize what we've learned. While there will be a host of problems specific to one agency or type of procurement, these themes seem to apply across the government, and aren't necessarily as earth-shattering as you might think.

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