recommended reading

Lead Contractor Urged More Testing on

Deborah Lielasus tries to sign up for insurance on the Affordable Care Act website Oct. 1. She only got as far as creating account before getting frustrated with site problems.

Deborah Lielasus tries to sign up for insurance on the Affordable Care Act website Oct. 1. She only got as far as creating account before getting frustrated with site problems. // Holly Ramer/AP

Contractors building the online health insurance marketplace warned government managers nearly one month before the site’s Oct. 1 launch that they did not have enough time to adequately test the system, according to documents released by congressional investigators on Tuesday.

The monthly status report from CGI Federal, dated Sept. 6, suggests “work[ing] with CMS to determine if any shifts can be made to allow for more time for performance testing.”

CGI built large portions of’s backend system.

In the end, officials held firm to the Oct. 1 launch date for the online marketplace, which only allowed for two weeks of end-to-end testing of the full system. That’s significantly less testing time than is afforded for most government and private sector projects and likely contributed to a disastrous first week for during which less than 1 percent of people who visited the site successfully enrolled in an insurance plan.

Site performance has improved significantly since’s first week but a majority of visitors are still not progressing all the way through the enrollment process.

The CGI report also noted problems with information passed between different contractors’ systems during the registration process. Failures during registration ended up being a major glitch in the site after launch.

The monthly report was presented in response to a request from House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and other Republican committee members.

Issa announced Tuesday morning that he had issued a subpoena to compel another contractor to turn over documents about its work. Administration officials have picked that contractor, Quality Software Services, or QSSI, to lead a “tech surge” to bring into working order by Nov. 30.

If the surge is successful, that would provide enough time for most insurance seekers to enroll in a plan before a Dec. 15 deadline established in President Obama’s health care reform law.

Representatives from QSSI told the House House Energy and Commerce committee last week that they expressed concern about the minimal testing underwent but said CMS made the call to go ahead.

In prepared testimony for a hearing before that same committee scheduled for Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius places a large share of the blame for’s failures on contractors, noting that “a subset of those contracts for have not met expectations.”

HHS is CMS’s parent organization. Issa has also requested documents from Sebelius’s office and threatened a subpoena if she does not comply. 

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.