back to article The Pentagon has the worst IT helpdesk in the US govt

When it comes to US government employee satisfaction with IT services, one agency finds itself continually at the bottom of the heap: The rather crucial Department of Defense. Results from the General Services Administration's (GSA) Mission-Support Customer Satisfaction Survey published on Wednesday found the DoD was trailing …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The thing about user satisfaction surveys is that they reflect the expectations of the user. I'm pretty sure that sometime in the past I've answered a question "Did we meet your expectations?" with something along the lines of "I'm afraid you did.".

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Have my upvote.

      Well stated.

  2. ecofeco Silver badge

    Money is funny that way

    Anyone who can get a high enough security clearance to work in DoD IT support is going to make more money in the private sector. And the ones still in service are just marking time until discharge/retirement. Actual hands on IT support tech in the military tend to be NCOs who are well aware of their worth in the private sector.

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker
      IT Angle

      Re: Goes both ways

      I tend to see retired soldiers move into private sector, especially in "sales" where they can schmooze the people they used to work with.

      On the other hand, I've seen plenty of private-sector/contractor engineers (former colleagues) gravitate toward becoming DoD civilian employees, doing the same work they did before but more R&D-focused instead of platform design/development -- the contractor in question wasn't interested in spending capital for IRaD and/or the DoD wanted to keep those R&D dollars in-house.

      (Icon: none of this was IT work. Technical, yes, but way more mechanical.)

    2. Brad Ackerman

      Re: Money is funny that way

      Some people don't know how much lower DoD contractor salaries are. Some would prefer to work for the government, but the DoD component can't get a waiver to hire a separating servicemember. Some have family or other reasons to stay in the DC area.

  3. Mike 16

    Not surprising

    Long ago, I worked in the building housing my University's EE department. We were informed that ours was the second worst building on campus for Health and Safety

    (not surprising when it housed lab equipment for folks whose future would include cutting edge distribution gear, as well as at least one generator that looked old enough for Tesla himself to have wound it)

    Turns out that the _worst_ building housed the student health clinic, and the office of the campus fire marshal, who had conducted the evaluation.

    1. teebie

      Re: Not surprising

      Does it count as conflict of interest if you are a fire marshal and your interest is not having the building you work in catch fire?

  4. gweedo

    Failed response to systemic problems

    I love how the response to systemic government failures is to form an additional organization... This basically means leadership has zero clue what to do to fix the problems and no vision. They only know how to create more bureaucracy and kick the ball down the road a bit further. This happens in most large private organizations as well. Sad.

  5. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    including hour-long login times, hour-plus delays from logging in to Outlook actually opening, $100 desktop PCs

    Hour-long login times indicates to me that their AD (or NDS) tree structure is badly organized, and/or they have replication issues. I can't speak to Outlook issues. And if all I did with a PC was email, word processing (though not via MS Windows/MS Office/MS Word, gods forfend), small spreadsheets, and [remote] database work, I'd be fine with a $100.00 PC (an RPi, keyboard, mouse, and monitor?).

    The DoD suffers the disadvantage of being a very hierarchically-minded, command-and-control-mentality organization. Due to pathological "office" politics, their sub-departments don't play well together.

  6. JavaJester

    Helpless desk

    The first time I heard the term "helpless desk, I worked as a contractor for the DoD. At a time when 6-8 GB RAM was commonplace for midrange phones, we were stuck using 32-bit Windows systems with 3 GB RAM usable memory. The machines had 4 GB but alas only 3 were available due to using 32-bit Windows. Starting up the IntelliJ IDE was an exercise in zen-like patience as it took at least 30 minutes to start if it started at all. If you were fortunate enough to get the 2-year-old* IDE to start, the aforementioned zen-like patience was required to wait for it to register your keystrokes. It was unusable. The "helpless" desk could do nothing to assist. Much like the widow to the unjust judge (Luke 18:5), we complained to management nonstop about the systems. To management's credit, they eventually communicated our pain high enough the chain that we got Fedora systems with 8 GB RAM. Although not awesome, they were usable.

    Part of the problem is the DoD spends money on the wrong things. Think paperwork and manually created reports that have inaccuracies that would be concerning if anyone read them. It is more forgivable to produce a barely functional system with comprehensive process documentation than a flawless system with documentation that is wanting.

    * I found a DoD STIG (security regulation) that forbids using unsupported software. I pointed out to the security folks that the version of the IntelliJ IDE we were mandated to use was not supported and therefore violated DoD policy. They begrudgingly admitted I was right and allowed us to use the most recent version of the IDE. One of the few victories I can claim for fighting the madness that is the DoD development environment.

  7. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    I suspect (among the other issues plaguing gov't agencies in general) that DOD probably has special contracts with the expectation that the software will be secure. I know a relative of mine, when he logged into a system, they were still having to get computers with a cardbus slot in them because it was authenticating using some kind of physical smart card. I've seen the flags for that kind of thing in ssh etc. but honestly assumed it was obsolete (... and it likely is but they were using it.)

  8. chuckufarley Silver badge

    You can't fix stupid...

    ...and you can only fix ignorance it if wants to be fixed.

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