This article is part of Technology newsletter. You can register here to receive it during the week.

Let’s talk about the exciting subject of public procurement! Wow? !

Seriously, the way government agencies buy technology is useful context for understanding the Pentagon. abrupt cancellation Tuesday of a technology project that was touted as essential to modernizing the US military. When government technology goes awry, one of the culprits is often a budget bureaucracy that is at odds with the pace of technological progress.

The Department of Defense project, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, known by the acronym JEDI as “Star Wars,” aimed to purchase off-the-shelf cloud computing software to put the US military on the new wave of technology. . Microsoft won the $ 10 billion contract in 2019, but it had been delayed since then by Amazon’s accusations that former President Donald J. Trump inappropriately interfered with the contracting process.

Years of denigration by technology companies who felt they were unfairly ignored probably spelled ruin for JEDI. This contract battle was unusually messy, but it also highlighted a deeper problem that has made a lot of government technology creaky and shabby: By the time a government agency purchases something, the technology may be past its prime or no longer. meet their needs.

The Defense Ministry started making plans for JEDI in 2017, and now it’s basically starting over again by asking companies to submit new contract proposals.

While reading the news, I had a flashback to a conversation I had last year with Robin Carnahan, which was recently confirmed. as an administrator of the US General Services Administration. “Stop thinking of digital infrastructure like you would finance a bridge,” said Carnahan, who at the time was working with Numerical response from the United States, an organization that helps local governments modernize their technology.

What she meant was that local, state, and federal governments typically pay for roads or other expensive projects once after long deliberation, and then try not to think too much about it for the next several decades.

But this poses an inherent flaw in public procurement of technology. Long budget cycles and government mindsets do not match the pace of technology and its need for constant improvement and maintenance.

Carnahan gave me the example of government purchasing software for its UI program. To qualify, a company offering the new software must prepare a proposal for the state’s labor department, and then lawmakers must approve the money. This process could take two or three years.

This means that by the time a business gets the green light to set up a website to handle unemployment claims, the technology on offer is already several years old. Take even more time to get the website up and running and up to state specifications. It is not a great result. You wouldn’t be thrilled if you bought a new smartphone and it came with 2016 features and functions.

Byzantine bureaucracies and long lead times also hold back technology outside of government. The length of car development processes is one of the reasons in-car entertainment and display systems are sometimes boring. By the time they arrive in your pickup, the technology may have been engineered years ago.

The sad thing about government technology is that it hasn’t always been this sad. The United States government, especially military and intelligence agencies, had the best technology in the world. The military helped guide innovations, including computer chips, powerful databases, and the Internet.

Governments still spend a fortune on technology, but the first and best customers for new products tend to be people rather than the public sector. One of the reasons is that we don’t take years to decide on new technologies.



  • This is possibly the biggest ransomware attack ever: Security experts say up to 1,500 companies could be affected by Russian cybercriminals which compromised software used by thousands of organizations and demanded a ransom to fix it, writes my colleague Kellen Browning. In addition, hackers suspected of being a Russian intelligence agency have been accused of violation of a contractor for the Republican National Committee around the same time as the ransomware attack, Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger report.

  • “The good, the meh and the ugly”: Brian X Chen written that Microsoft’s first major update to Windows in six years features improvements, including a more smartphone-like interface, but parts of Windows 11 are also “frustrating and familiar.”

  • Pretending to be someone you’re not online isn’t new, but … A writer for Vox says new technologies and changing standards have led more people to pretend to be black and Asian teenage girls and women on apps like TikTok and Instagram. His “easier than ever to assume an almost entirely new identity online, regardless of the consequences that such behavior may cause, ”writes Vox.

During a recent heat wave in British Columbia, a mom bear and cubs took a dip in a backyard pool.


We want to hear from you. Let us know what you think of this newsletter and what else you would like us to explore. You can reach us at ontech@nytimes.com.

If you haven’t already received this newsletter in your inbox, please register here. You can also read past columns on technology.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here