The federal government's IT department is supposed to be an apolitical, technocratic regime. But blunders on two federal websites are turning it into a political sounding board against President Obama.
This week, the federal government's much-hyped jobs board website, USAJobs.gov, has been crashing repeatedly, pulverizing resumés and destroying peoples' passwords. If you take a look at the USAJobs Facebook page, it's still being flooded with complaints about how "crazy this all is" and observations like "STILL NOT WORKING CORRECTLY" and "USAJOBS WEB SITE IS A DISASTER."
You would think this petty IT problem wouldn't come a mile from the president's desk. But of course, you'd be wrong. 18 months ago, Obama's Office of Personnel Management decided to stop outsourcing its business to Monster.com, which previously powered USAJobs.gov. It then spent $6 million creating a new government-run version of the site. Its current mishaps have prompted a lengthy story in today's Washington Post and a scathing editorial in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. In a snarky end note, The Journal writes "Monster.com has graciously offered to host free job postings for federal agencies for 30 days, as the government reboots its 'improved' website. Better yet, the Obama team could turn over fixing USAJobs to the folks at Occupy Wall Street." Har, har har. Even the Facebook page commenters seem to be familiar with the intricacies of the story. "You should have let MONSTER.COM continue to operate that site," writes Kim Lindner.
The headaches over USAJobs follow another seemingly prosaic issue: the payment of student loans to the federal government. On Oct. 10, the Department of Education's new site MyEdAccount.com wasn't prepared for an influx of payments from students and began flashing the message, "An error has occurred and has been logged, please try again later," The Consumerist reported. The problem persisted for over a week resulting in "hundreds of calls ... causing the phones to not connect." Making matters worse, on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that as many as 5,000 college students had their personal financial information exposed, including Social Security numbers.
Again, not something you would think brings in politics if it weren't for the fact that Democrats moved to have the federal government take over the student loan industry earlier this year—something Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx called a "political tactic," which she is happy to weigh in on as chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. “Any time the federal government assumes control over a private sector industry, there can be national implications,” Foxx said this week. We don't know what we'd do if our IT department was screwing things up this bad. Usually it would just mean we can't get work e-mail on our iPhones. Where's Rahm Emanuel with some tough love when you need him?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.