Official: USAjobs.gov woes are being resolved

The government took over management of the federal careers site from Monster.com and since then it has experienced significant problems

Severe performance issues with the USAjobs.gov careers portal have been alleviated and an array of internal moves are afoot to ensure its long-term success, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Tuesday.

The government recently took over management of the site from Monster.com and spent millions of dollars overhauling it. But performance problems cropped up in October after the launch of version 3.0 of the site.

In his prepared testimony Tuesday, Berry described the pressures USAjobs.gov 3.0 faced after going online.

A major issue had to do with human fallibility, combined with a design decision in the software, according to Berry.

"While basic profile information transferred from USAjobs 2.0 to 3.0, user passwords did not. The passwords were not transferred over for the security protection of users," he said. "It was necessary for users to reset their passwords, and many struggled to recall the answers to security questions that they may have created years prior to the conversion."

The OPM's help desk was swamped with more than 40,000 support tickets in the first three weeks after the launch, he said.

"In hindsight, we did not anticipate the volume of legacy account holders who would forget their password security question prompts, and we should have done more to educate legacy account holders in advance of the oncoming password change prior to the launch," Berry said.

Berry also provided additional details of the traffic experienced by the site following the 3.0 rollout.

Some "300,000 to 400,000 visitors accessed our website per day, and the page view of data peaked at almost 45,000,000 pages during a single day," he said. "This caused the system to operate at 100 percent of available bandwidth capacity at various times throughout the day, denying access to many site visitors."

The government added 10 virtual servers and added content-delivery support through a "trusted vendor," he added. "As a result of these efforts, bandwidth consumption is now peaking at approximately 10 percent of capacity throughout the day. Our capacity issues have been addressed."

Berry also shared some statistics regarding the site's processing workload since the launch. It has received more than 12 million visitors, 800,000 applications and had a peak of roughly 13,000 job postings in one day, he said.

In addition, user satisfaction "has shown progress," Berry said.

Berry has "hand-picked a great team" that is "working around the clock" to make the site a success. That team in turn is getting help from an "IT SWAT team" composed of individuals from around the federal government, he added.

OPM Inspector General Patrick McFarland also weighed in at the hearing.

In general, the OPM has trouble with IT projects due to a lack of familiarity with processes for building an IT system in "a very deliberate, structured, and methodical way," and needs to gain such skills, he said in prepared remarks. "This ... expertise would be used to oversee all OPM system development projects and as a resource for project managers."

The IG hasn't yet audited the USAJobs.gov project but plans to conduct two this fiscal year, McFarland added.

Overall, the OPM never should have jettisoned Monster.com, said Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret, a consulting firm that helps organizations conduct successful IT projects. "It's insane to think that a relatively small government department can rapidly come up to speed to match the accumulated knowledge and experience of an experienced job site outsourcer such as Monster.com," he said.

The fact that USAjobs.gov is public-facing and meant to serve large amounts of users no doubt helped draw scrutiny and spark a hasty response from officials. But overall, its problems may end up looking minuscule when compared with those faced by broader government IT initiatives, particularly sprawling ERP (enterprise resource planning) projects such as the Air Force's ECSS (Expeditionary Combat Support System), which has experienced massive expected cost overruns and years of delays.

"At every level the government seems to not have IT procurement, investment and execution in order," Krigsman said.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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