Dec 30

Government Shutdown’s Impact on Contractors and Employees

Contractors Face Considerable Financial Risk

With Congress and President Trump at a budget impasse, funding for significant portions of the US Federal government ended midnight Friday, December 18, 2018. Historically, government employees are not paid on time but are retroactively paid after the new budget is implemented. The same is not true for government contractors.

Government contractors compete against each other to provide a wide range of services such as computer programming, construction, security guards, cafeterias, janitorial services, technical experts, maintenance workers, and much more. When the government shuts down, contractor staff are not needed or can’t do their work. But they are real companies and people who suffer. Long-term, it’s bad for US taxpayers.

Our Contract with Amtrak is Suspended

We have a government contract with Amtrak which was suspended by this letter:

This contract provides help for Microsoft Access database programming and is relatively small. We do not have dedicated staff for the contract, so we are not really affected as our people will work on other projects.

Unfortunately, we have colleagues who are government contractors or in businesses more dependent on the government who are significantly impacted by the shutdown. This is especially true for companies who provide staff to work at government facilities that are now closed. Most are hesitant to speak publicly about their experiences in fear their government clients would be offended, so we’d like to share our experiences and theirs.

Very Tough Situation and Decisions for Government Contractors and Their Employees

Since government contractors are unlikely to be repaid when the budget is finally resolved, government contractors with dedicated staff for those contracts need to decide whether to pay their employees for time they never expected to not charge to the government. The impact is somewhat offset by the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and maybe they can force employees to take vacation days. But as the shutdown lasts longer, contractors will have to pay their employees from their own funds. Not paying them runs the risk that the employees leave and won’t be available once the budget is resolved. One cannot expect employees to remain loyal if they aren’t paid. Meanwhile, employees are dusting off their resumes and seeking alternative employers.

Small businesses are especially vulnerable since many contracts have small profit margins, so without significant cash and lines of credit, a cash flow problem can quickly bankrupt a company. Even generous owners who try to do the “right thing”, may not be able to if their cash is depleted. That would lead to fewer government contractors in the future and higher costs to taxpayers.

A friend of mind who owns a firm completely focused on servicing the federal government shared:

“As contractors, our employees still get paid and yet we are unable to bill. Cash is king and small companies like mine live and die by cash. This is the worst.”

Media Coverage

On December 26th, we sent a Twitter message with the letter we received from Amtrak and the sympathy we feel for government contractors and their employees.

That led to our inclusion in a Washington DC News article on WUSA Channel 9 (CBS) by John Henry that evening. A video of the coverage with our Amtrak letter and insight are in this article: #ShutdownStories: Government contractors tackle life without pay during partial shutdown

On December 27th, I was interviewed in the Huffington Post article by Sarah Ruiz-Grossman about the challenges facing contractors entitled
Shutdown Leaves Government Contractors Without Work And Likely No Back Pay.

“Business owners who have [dedicated] staff are making the decision: Do we pay people or not, even though we won’t get paid by the government? Either you force people to take vacation, or you pay them, to be a good company ― but depending how long it drags on, one may not have a choice.”

On December 27th, Bridget Johnson included us in her Homeland Security Today article:
Federal Employees, Contractors Tweet Worries with #ShutdownStories

Self-Inflicted Wound that Should be Resolved Promptly

Eventually the budget will be resolved. We hope the parties come to their senses and do it sooner rather than later because innocent people who’ve dedicated their firms and lives to providing a professional service to US taxpayers are at risk and feeling real pain. That’s terrible for them now and our country long-term.

Nov 25

Media Coverage for Changing the National Discourse on

Healthcare.govI’ve unexpectedly become a national technical “expert” on the problems plaguing the web site for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). By documenting the problems from my experience trying to use the site on the first day, I was among the first to warn that the problems were VERY serious. Much more serious than the initial suggestions that crashes were due to too many users. Based on my software development experience and how awful is, I sensed the site was created by people who may have never created a scalable, database web site before. My blog posts went viral:

As a result, I’ve received considerable national media attention in newspapers, television, and radio. I even Testified before the House Homeland Security Committee on November 13th.

More recently, suggestions for Designing a Data Entry System Properly; Overhauling the Web Site.

Here are some of the media spots in chronological order as the controversy evolved.

Luke Chung Quoted in New York Times for Healthcare.govOctober 8: Quoted in the New York Times

Michael Shear of the NY Times called me yesterday and quoted me in today’s article: Health Exchange Delays Tied to Software Crash in Early Rush

“It’s poorly designed,” said Luke Chung, the president of a database company in Virginia who has publicly criticized the site in recent days. “People higher up are given the excuse that there are too many users. That’s a convenient excuse for the managers to pass up the chain.”

October 9: Quoted in Forbes by Avik Roy

How Obamacare’s Exchanges Turned Into A ‘Third World Experience’

IT developer Luke Chung, who supports the health law, blogged scathingly about his experience logging into “To deliver such low quality results requires multiple process breakdowns. It just proves you can create bad solutions independent of the choice of technology…it wouldn’t pass a basic code review. It appears the people who built the site don’t know what they’re doing, never used it, and didn’t test it.”

Luke Chung on the CBS Morning News for Healthcare.govOctober 9: CBS This Morning News

I was included in the national broadcast of the CBS Morning News. Read the text or watch the video in Obamacare website looks “like nobody tested it,” programmer says

Luke Chung on CBS News

“It wasn’t designed well, it wasn’t implemented well, and it looks like nobody tested it,” said Luke Chung, an online database programmer.

Chung supports the new health care law but said it was not the demand that is crashing the site. He thinks the entire website needs a complete overhaul.

“It’s not even close. It’s not even ready for beta testing for my book. I would be ashamed and embarrassed if my organization delivered something like that,” he said.

Luke Chung on CNN Situation Room with Wolf BlitzerOctober 9: CNN Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer

I was featured in an article on CNN entitled Obamacare glitches known ahead of time? Brian Todd came by the office to learn more about the challenges I encountered and the web site actually crashed while I was showing it.

Luke Chung on CNN Situation Room with Brian Todd

Luke Chung on Fox News with Peter DoocyOctober 11: Fox News with Peter Doocy

ObamaCare website neither fast or easy? Peter stepped through the site and struggled to even get a user name. Then I made a few comments around 1:11.

Luke Chung on Fox News with Peter Doocy

“It’s written as if it were created by people who had never created a database web application before…This can be fixed in a very short period of time, and it wouldn’t necessarily be that expensive”

October 11: KABC Radio Los Angeles (AM 790): McIntyre In The Morning

Luke Chung comes on to talk about the root cause of Obamacare’s website hick-ups… (7 minutes)

KABC McIntyre in the Morning

October 11: Ross Fire Show on KIRO Radio Seattle

Here’s my interview with Dave Ross of Ross Fire on KIRO Radio, a CBS Radio station in Seattle:

RossFire Radio Show

A computer expert’s take on the ineptitude of Obamacare online

Database expert Luke Chung has suddenly become an expert on the failings of the Obamacare computer system, all because it kept crashing as he tried to get a quote. Dave Ross and Luke go in depth on what Luke found after he dug into it (stunning ineptitude) and how he could fix it easily for a fraction of the cost. Whether you’re a geek or not, you’ll enjoy this fascinating conversation.

It’s my most in depth interview on the website. It includes my experience meeting with the House Energy and Commerce Committee staffers on Thursday, ways to improve the system, and how the Affordable Care Act can help FMS and other small businesses. I also suggested at the end of the show that our consulting team could rebuild the site for $1 million, and that I’d be embarrassed to accept so much. I think I can stand by that, but I probably should have checked with my managers first. 🙂

NBC Today ShowOctober 17: NBC Today Show with Tom Costello

Here’s my appearance on the Today Show:

Obamacare site gets failing grades from experts

Two weeks after the government’s healthcare exchange website was launched , it is receiving intense criticism from Americans trying to sign up, former White House staffers, and even a software programmer, who says the site looks like “amateur hour.”

Discussing on the NBC Today Show with Tom Costello

At 1:36: Tom Costello asks, “When you see this as a software programmer, what does it say to you. Luke replied: “Amateur Hour. It looks like it was created by someone who has never delivered commercial software before….A user should never see this. This would barely make beta testing.”

2:07: Experts say a lot of work needs to be done: “If they don’t change management, this project is doomed. Because we’ve already seen what the existing management considers ready for shipping, and it’s not.”

NBC Nightly NewsOctober 17: NBC Nightly News with Tom Costello

I also appeared on the evening news with a different clip from the same interview:

More than $196 million spent on glitch-ridden

The company that built the botched website where people are supposed to sign up for the Obama’s health care exchanges has spent millions of dollars developing, but people are still having trouble signing up. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.


At 1:54: Tech experts say the problems with the US web site are serious. Luke says: “It doesn’t work. It’s supposed to get you a quote. It doesn’t do that.”

Luke Chung owns a software database company. If this was your product, what would you say? “I’d be embarrassed, and I’d use language with my development team that couldn’t be on the air. This is ridiculous.”

CNNOctober 18: CNN Situation Room with Brian Todd

Brian Todd came to our offices again for this story: Insurers suffer Obamacare site glitches

CNN Situation Room October 18

I’m on at 1:12 discussing the unnecessary complexity of the system and ways to improve it.

October 18: Sean Hannity Radio Show

A nice conversation with Sean Hannity helping him understand the technical problems with the web site. About 15 minutes.

Sean Hannity Radio Show

Sean liked the conversation so much, he invited me to appear on his TV Show next week.

October 18: Al Jazeera America

Al Jazeera America

Interviewed by Joie Chen on Al Jazeera America shot at their studio located in the Newseum. This was my first live broadcast. I don’t think anyone saw it, so it was good practice.

October 21: Steve Malzberg Show

Interviewed by Steve Malzberg on his radio show.

Luke Chung on the Steve Malzberg Show

October 22: Geraldo Radio Show

Interviewed by Geraldo Rivera on his morning radio show.

October 23: Hannity TV Show

A very engaging four minute one-on-one conversation with Sean Hannity.

Hannity TV

Tech expert calls ObamaCare site an ‘awful’ process

Luke Chung and Sean Hannity

Tech Expert on ‘I’ve Built More Complex Systems for $1M’ (partial transcript)

“It’s just an awful website…As I was using it, the system kept crashing on me. And as soon as it started crashing, I was like ‘Oh, my God, this system is not ready for prime time.’ The types of crashes I was experiencing had nothing to do with too many users. It was just bad…They had developers who I sensed had never been paid to create software before. It was really amateurish. It looks like it was their first job…The programming was really bad; it looks like it wasn’t tested, and even if they had programmed it properly and tested it, the design was wrong. So it really didn’t matter whether they did it right…They haven’t thought through the buying process…$200 million at $200 an hour is a million man hours, 500 man years. How did they have time to use 500 man-years? Or triple that, 1500 man years..This is just filling out a paper form and getting a subsidy…It shouldn’t be that complicated.”

Luke Chung on MSNBC October 24: MSNBC Chris Jansing Show

A relatively lengthy eight minute interview where I evaluate the existing system and point out the problems with federal contractors. Chris Jansing does a nice job challenging some of my conclusions: “It’s just an awful web site”

Luke Chung on MSNBC Chris Jansing Show

An article by Paul Bremmer commenting on my interview including a complete transcript of the conversation:
Software Expert Slams Healthcare.Gov On MSNBC: ‘This Really Shouldn’t Be That Difficult’

Luke Chung and Chris Jansing on MSNBC

NBC Nightly NewsOctober 25: NBC Evening New with Tom Costello to ‘work smoothly’ by end of November
White House economic advisor Jeff Zeints has said that by the end of November — just five weeks away — the federal healthcare website will be working smoothly for the vast majority of users. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

NBC Evening News 2013-10-25

Starting at 1:50, I make a few comments:

“Every time I come to my application, it says it’s incomplete…It’s extremely difficult to take over someone else’s code, figure out what’s wrong with it, and fix it. Sometimes you have to throw it away and start from scratch.”

Tom Costello concluded from my comments that I didn’t believe the new team would be able to fix the site by the end of November. While I believe that will be a challenging deadline, my contention all along is that this website is not that difficult to implement. With the proper design and development team, they could create a functional version of in five weeks. Their families, however, shouldn’t expect to see them much over Thanksgiving weekend.

fox-and-friendsOctober 26: Fox & Friends interview by Clayton Morris

This interview was focused on how the site could be designed properly with graphics of my recommendations based on my blog post: Creating a Web Site that Works

Unfortunately, I haven’t received a clip of the episode. Will post it if/when we receive it.

November 5: Sean Hannity Radio Show

Discussing the mess, what to do about it, and how the government contractors charged so much and delivered so little. Begins with Congressional inquiries of the CGI Federal contractors before my interview starts. I start a bit after the 2 minute mark (total 10 minutes)

Sean Hannity Radio Show

The Fiscal TimesNovember 6: The Fiscal Times by Brianna Ehley
Tech Expert: Scrap the Obamacare Site and Start Over

Luke Chung, president and founder of FMS, a software development firm based in Virginia, suggested the contractors should not try “to fix something that’s bad.”

“It’s like polishing a turd. Either way, you still have a turd,” Chung said bluntly.

He criticized the design of the site, and said it didn’t need to be so complex.He said a much simpler site would serve its purpose better, make it easier for the public to use and would likely only take a month to build.

Not my classiest quote, but you never know what a reporter will use after an extended interview. Here are the recommendations I’ve made for a better design and simpler implementation of the web site: Creating a Web Site that Works

Greta van SusterenNovember 6: Greta van Susteren Show

Appeared with Greta to discuss what went wrong.

The Fiscal TimesNovember 13: The Fiscal Times by David Francis
No Hope Left for Obamacare’s Website, Techies Say

“When I visited on October 1, that was the worst piece of software I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said Luke Chung, founder and CEO of the software company FMS. “It had nothing to do with too many users. It couldn’t serve one user.”

Chung, who is testifying in front of the House Oversight committee today, said these technical issues are the most frustrating.

“I have contended all along that this is not that difficult of a project,” he said. “It doesn’t provide health care, it doesn’t even provide insurance. It’s just a form to apply for a subsidy to get health insurance. It’s automating a paper form. It shouldn’t be that hard.”

“Technically, this is not that difficult,” Chung added. “It shouldn’t cost more than $10 million. And it should be something that can be done in a couple of months.”

“The idea that it would be perfect is never. All systems are never perfect. It’s never perfectly secure or functioning,” Chung said. “If you discovered hundreds of bugs on the initial launch, there are hundreds more or multiples of that that haven’t been discovered yet.”

November 13: House Homeland Security Committee

I was invited to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee. I provided a written testimony and gave a five minute opening statement before answering questions from Chairman McCaul.

Homeland Security Committee Testimony

Testifying before the House Committee on Homeland Security

CNNNovember 14: CNN by Joe Johns and Stacey Samuel

Official: Hackers tried repeatedly to attack Obamacare website

Quoted in this article based on my testimony yesterday before the House Homeland Security Committee.

“You would assume that for hundreds of millions of dollars it would be a secure site”

Was interviewed by the article’s authors on November 18th for additional research into how the contractors took advantage of taxpayers.

November 14: Sean Hannity Radio Show

My third appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show. I’ve become his “technical expert” and we discussed how the government contractors abused taxpayers in addition to being inept. Also discussed how the website could be designed properly and how we created the Logistics Support System for the United Nations, deployed in 80 countries, for under $500K. And that platform can be localized in any language while was supposed to also be in Spanish and they don’t even have that.

Sean Hannity Radio Show

In the month and a half since debuted, I think everyone has finally accepted how technically awful the website is. Maybe this will be the end of my media attention.

CNNNovember 22: CNN Situation Room by Brianna Keilar and Wolf Blitzer

Where’s the anonymous shopping perk?

While attending a week-long conference at Microsoft, I was asked to comment on the need for anonymous shopping on the website. I was taped from their Seattle studio, hence the Space Needle backdrop:

CNN with Brianna Keiler

I appear at 1:50 for a short quote in this 4:30 story:

“This is something people expect when they visit any web site to not disclose any personal information until they’re at a point where they want to make a commitment to buy.”

Greta van SusterenNovember 26: On the Record with Kimberly Guilfoyle

Will be in good health by Nov. 30?

Greta van Susteren is on vacation, so I chatted with Kimberly who was in New York City while I was on Greta’s studio in Washington, DC. We discussed how these contractors are “Too Big to Fire”

Kimberly-Guilfoyle-Luke Kimberly-Guilfoyle-Luke2

“Over time, I’m beginning to see that these government contractors who took over this project have essentially made every decision that favors them as much as possible – to maximize the cost to taxpayers, to maximize their profits.”

Related article by Greg Richter based on the broadcast: Software Developer: ACA Website Designers Just Lining Own Pockets

Luke Chung Quoted in New York Times for Healthcare.govNovember 27: Quoted in the New York Times

I’ve been a technical resource for Robert Pear of the New York Times since he quoted me in an article that kicked off all this media attention on October 8th.

Yesterday we chatted about how a web site needs to be built to support maximum volume which will come on the deadline date. Quite a challenge since they can’t even support the early volume. His article appears on the front page:

Health Exchange Delays Tied to Software Crash in Early Rush

Luke Chung, the president of FMS, a database company in Virginia, said building the website to handle 50,000 simultaneous users was “not unreasonable.” But he said the government must be prepared to handle much larger numbers at peak times like Dec. 23, just as the Internal Revenue Services does at the tax filing deadline in April.

CNNNovember 27: CNN by Leigh Ann Caldwell

White House: Enroll in Obamacare, but not too fast

After confirming I wasn’t involved with the project, I was interviewed by Leigh Ann Caldwell about the new rollout while trying to board to flight at BWI:

Luke Chung, president and founder of Virginia-based software development company FMS Inc., said success for the website would be determined by both the number of users as well as how long they are in the system. He compared it to a highway, noting that 50,000 people traveling 60 miles per hour is smooth traffic while the same number going 10 miles per hour is a jam…Chung cited December 23 as the most significant deadline, noting that demand would be “huge” because people by nature wait until the last minute to act.

NBC Nightly NewsNovember 29: NBC Nightly News with Kristin Welker

Deadline hours away for Obamacare website fixes

The Obama administration has just one day to get its website running more efficiently, but officials are already trying to limit expectations once again.

NBC Nightly News 2013-11-29

Taped from sunny Sarasota, FL over Thanksgiving weekend, this was the lead story of the evening news. Thought a beach shoot would be better but they said they’d have to explain that. Starting at 0:45, I make a few comments in response to Secretary Sebelius’ comments that people should use the new web site during off-peak hours:

“It tells me the system isn’t full baked. This system should be able to accommodate as many people who want to get on as possible.”..cut to President Obama…”50,000 is not a number that’s unheard of for websites to be able to support at one time. So I think the challenge is not just the number of users, but whether there are still bugs in the system that will prevent the process from running smoothly.”

NBC Today ShowNovember 30 Today Show with Kristin Welker

Luke Chung on NBC Today Show 2013-11-30

A portion of my taped interview yesterday was also included in the following morning’s Today Show at 1:06:

“The system either works or it doesn’t work….the 50,000 number that they’ve put out is a little ambiguous because what one wants to know is how many people per hour can get through the system.”

CNNNovember 30: CNN with Tory Dunnan

Tory Dunnan had a Skype call with me to better understand the capacity of the relaunched site. I now know that I need better lighting for a Skype call. This interview was cut into multiple stories that aired all day long. Here’s one of them appearing at 1:30:

cnn-2013-11-30-Tory-Dunnan cnn-2013-11-30-Skype

“So the challenge isn’t how many lanes do you have on the highway, but it’s how fast the cars can go down the highway. Because if there’s any breakdown, you can have a big traffic jam and pile up behind you.”

More details: Deadline Day: Obama administration ‘on track’ for website goal, agency says

fox-and-friendsNovember 30: Fox & Friends Live Interview with Clayton Morris

ObamaCare: Mistake or moneymaker?

A one-on-one interview with Clayton Morris for four minutes discussing how large government contractors profit from delivering systems that don’t work: “If we follow the money, we’ll see the stink in the system…Too Big to Fire”

Luke Chung and Clayton Morris on Fox & Friends Luke Chung and Clayton Morris on Fox & Friends

Featuring Sarasota Bay behind me.

msnbcDecember 2: MSNBC News Nation with Tamron Hall

I appeared on a panel with three others for a live interview discussing the relaunched web site. Tried to explain how software works to better understand the expected 1% error rate since software either works or doesn’t.

Do they expect 1% of the people to crash for unknown reasons or do they know certain situations will always crash and only expect 1% of the people to do that. Frankly, I don’t understand how anyone develops software with expected failure rates like this.

My appearance is available and summarized by Noah Rothman in this article: Tamron Hall Interrogates Tech Expert After He Criticized Supposed ‘Improvements’ to ACA Site

Here’s a new blog post with my more detailed technical assessment of the new web site: Who Thinks the Relaunched Performance Metrics are Acceptable?

December 4, 2013, Hannity TV Show: Tech Experts: Should Cost Less Than $10 Million

Appearing with David Kennedy, I discuss how the web site should have cost less and been designed with security up front.

“This does not need to be a Silicon Valley space project…None of these contractors are ever held accountable for delivering such crap”

Article: Tech Experts: Should Cost Less Than $10 Million

Luke Chung Quoted in New York Times for Healthcare.govFebruary 11, 2014: Quoted in the New York Times: Creators Still in Demand on Health Care Website

Robert Pear of the NY Times called me and quoted me in this article: Creators Still in Demand on Health Care Website

The contract for the site has moved from CGI Federal to Accenture, but Accenture doesn’t really have a better team to put in place. In the typical large government contractor world, the winner of a contract simply hires the existing team and moves them to their payroll. The people who do the work remain and change their business cards. Do we really expect significant improvements from a team that created the original site and thought it was ready for the public?

“This appears to be a typical government contract shuffle,” Luke Chung, the president of FMS, a software development company in Vienna, Va., said of the handoff. “A new company wins the contract and hires many of the old people. It happens all the time in government.”

Dec 07

FMS President and Founder, Luke Chung to be on Executive Leaders Radio

Luke Chung, President and founder of FMS, Inc. was invited to be on Executive Leaders Radio airing Saturday at 10:00a.m. EST. Executive Leaders Radio with Host Dean Schwartz, Partner, Stradley Ronan, conducts “elite interviews” of prominent CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CIOs and Presidents focusing on “what makes people tick.” The Washington DC CEO Show can be found on terrestrial radio stations WHFS/1580AM (The Big Talker).

Jul 16

Guest Speaker on Radio Show: Start Up or Shut Up

On Monday July 19, 2010, I’ll be live on the local radio show Start up or Shut up! which covers creating and running a small business.  It’ll be from 2-3PM on 1580 AM in Northern Virginia.

Start up or Shut up! is a LIVE radio show Monday afternoon from 2-3pm on the Big Talker 1580 AM hosted by Mark Bucher & Tom Gregg.