Government Contracting at its Worst

We have all heard about the $600 toilet seats in the military. Here is a $336,413.59 iPad app for you.

Apparently the TSA needed an app to allow random direction for passengers to turn left and right. You can see the app in operation in the video below. That’s all it does.

Apparently, the TSA paid $1.4 million for this project, but over a million was for hardware, presumably devices. $336,000 was for app development. Further research shows that the total development cost for the randomizer app was $47,400, a TSA spokesperson told Mashable, which was part of the $336,413.59 contract. The spokesperson declined to elaborate on what else the contract entailed.

An Android programmer then writes this app in front of our eyes in about 10 minutes. So – the government paid somebody $336,000, to develop an app that took less than an hour to make. How would you like to make a million dollars an hour? Even if only $47,000  went to the developer, it’s still an hourly rate of over $200,000.

Ok, ok, there were endless exchanges about complicated specification, approvals, and all the standard government contracting overhead, which I am used to myself in my own work world. Even at an overhead factor of 90%, we’re now down to $20,000 per hour for the actual work.

If you’re not a programmer and don’t want to learn how to actually write this app, just watch the first minute of this video and then forward to the last 30 seconds. That’s all you need.

And this should make us all think about how our government spends our money. This just happens to be in one area that I understand well. Let’s take a wild guess about how it is that a single F-35 fighter plane costs more than $100 million, and we’re buying 2,443 of them.

Now, true to form for our government, and this is pure satirical speculation on my part, perhaps there are some things in this app that the government is NOT telling us about. What if the arrow is just a ruse for a profiling app. The camera points at the passenger, does it not? Perhaps it is looking for skin color, turbans, and other indicators of religion and directs those passengers “randomly” to one side or the other? Perhaps it is imaging all passengers and running face recognition in the background on some server, so by the time the passenger gets to the scanning station, they have the identity? Features like that – that they are not telling us about – would actually justify an app costing $336,000.

I have no evidence for that. Either our government is insanely incompetent by spending this much money for a trivially simple randomizer app, or it is cunningly smart by making an app that seems benign but has huge implications.

Your guess is as good as mine.


2 thoughts on “Government Contracting at its Worst

    1. Well, I am in the business doing contracting for government, but I don’t get to do apps this lucrative. I am actually convinced there is something here that we DON’T know about and nobody is talking about.

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