It actually likely cost much more than $336k - possibly more than a million. There are a few parts at play here.
There is a minimum obligation of $336,413.59 (box 26), likely to cover the base period of the contract. But, that’s just the first six months of a two year contract. The contract actually includes three more six-month option periods and has a total cost ceiling of a whopping $1,176,280.72 (see the supply the schedule.)
There isn’t enough material to decide if the 18-months of option periods were actually funded. However, contractors almost always get these. Also, and this is a time and materials contract, so the TSA may have spent much less than $336k (you would need to look at invoices to see how much IBM actually billed.)
Is $1.2M outrageous? The GSA contract vehicle (GS-35F-4984H) given is for general IT hardware, software, and services. The randomize contract is written for “mobile application development,” which means it was a services contract and mostly went to developers, engineers, project managers, etc.
IBM has public rates available for this contract for 2016. Who knows what labor categories they used for billing the government, but going with a rate of $200/hr we get a maximum of about 5881 hours or about 3 person-years of effort.
Yeah, and if you’re looking for the hourly rates from the government, https://news.slashdot.org/story/15/10/22/2336220/government-team-experiments-with-paying-for-small-open-source-tasks indicates that an average winning rate for a “Senior Consultant” w/ a BS degree and 5 to 10 years of experience is 171 USD/hour, which has to cover business expenses, overhead, supervision, contract searching, bench time etc. Compare that with the averaged salaried employee only making 50 USD/hour.
According to this article the app itself cost $47K and was only part of the entire contract.
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.
Thanks for clarifying; I’ve updated the post to include a lot of the info here, and linked to this comment.
Why is this surprising/newsworthy to anyone, ever?
Edit (after reflection): This post is frustrating to me because by making an example of things like this we (engineers, technologists) are just making fools of ourselves and strengthening the stereotype that we have no idea how business works, or that we have some assumption that engineering exists somehow completely outside the realm of the rest of culture or enterprise.
As should be completely obvious this price has absolutely nothing to do with the effort it would take an individual outside of this context to produce a similar app.
What if it’s just a comment on how outrageous it is that the US government spent so many tax dollars on such nonsense?
Then it would be better in a place likeHN, El Reg, or any of a number of places bettered suited to outrage porn.
The Register, which is the Daily Mail of IT, (that is, British tabloid) and proud of it.
It seems like it’s more than it should be, but without the specs (which appear to be non-public), it’s kind of hard to tell.
This post is frustrating to me because by making an example of things like this we (engineers, technologists) are just making fools of ourselves and strengthening the stereotype that we have no idea how business works…
I totally agree with you on this. The post would be more balanced if it went into some detail about what was billed for and how government procurement’s well known peccadilloes played out in this case.
consider writing your elected officials
The belief in “writing your elected officials” is what’s wrong with America.
It is mathematically impossible for your senator to represent you, and it is just plain wrong for 0.00008% of the population to write rules for the rest to obey.
EDIT: How is this off-topic? I’m literally quoting the post.
Your link refers to a hiring comment on HN.
Fixed, thanks! Somehow the 1 got chopped off the end of the URL.
What’s the likelihood that IBM actually supplied some way to generate true random numbers here? That would at least justify some of the time spent.