USAJobs goes splat instead of splashy

As the USAJobs debacle dragged into its fourth week, it was not just users who were venting their frustration. Lawmakers and pundits were also loudly proclaiming that the incident offered lessons for federal insourcing and IT policy.

The Office of Personnel Management made a splashy announcement when it launched Version 3.0 of the federal job search site on Oct. 11, after the agency took responsibility for the site from Monster.com and brought it in-house. But users almost immediately began complaining on Facebook and in the media about multiple problems with the site’s operation.

Three weeks of ups and downs followed, with OPM issuing daily progress updates, users continuing to rage, industry rivals chiming in, and finally the policy-makers and pundits adding their 2 cents.

“Error: USAJobs.gov” read the headline on the Wall Street Journal’s Oct. 26 editorial. The essay said that while President Barack Obama is pushing a jobs package, his administration can't seem to get its own job search site to work.

“Up-and-running is an overstatement,” the editorial said and added this parting shot: "The Obama team could turn over fixing USAJobs to the folks at Occupy Wall Street."

Lawmakers started entering the fray, too, with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) asking Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel to intervene in the crisis and suggesting that the site be outsourced. Private companies — such as industry leader Monster.com, which is based in Massachusetts — are simply better equipped to handle such complex IT projects, Kerry said.

Another Democrat, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), also spoke up. “We can’t have the U.S. government standing in the way of people getting jobs because of a faulty website,” Dicks told Politico on Oct. 28. “I think the private sector should be brought back in to handle this until they can get this mess straightened out.”

The saga is not over yet. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has asked the supercommittee charged with finding more than $1 trillion to cut from the federal budget to rebid USAJobs, which Johnson claims would save $58 million.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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