College pamphlets are laid out on a table.

Army Dumping Contractor Behind Troubled Tuition Aid Platform

The Army The company it contracted to operate its platform that manages educational benefits for more than 100,000 soldiers is dumping a site cursed with technical glitches and service leaders say it was flawed from the start.

The service was launched in March 2021 Army IgnitED, a resource for soldiers to process their education benefits that is currently operated by professional services firm Deloitte. That service was an attempt to modernize the now-defunct GoArmyEd.

But right out of the gate, ArmyIgnitED had big problems. Thousands of soldiers criticized the platform on social media for issues ranging from login problems to the site not being accessible to their college or education and payment difficulties leading to at least 20,000 soldiers paying thousands of dollars out of pocket† Those problems promptly provoked disdain from members of Congress and forced senior leaders to scramble to set up repayment programs for soldiers.

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“A year ago there was a lot of frustration. Soldiers paid out of pocket. We couldn’t get logins. There were all kinds of problems,” Army Sergeant Major Michael Grinston, the service’s top commander, said at a town hall of soldiers Friday.

“We haven’t solved them all; we still have a long way to go. We recognize that we have not solved all the problems at the moment,” Grinston added. “I used [tuition assistance]† I’m a big fan and otherwise I wouldn’t have my degree. … It’s important to you, it’s important to me.”

After the disastrous launch, problems persist a year later, and the military has decided to stop working with Deloitte, the contractor managing the platform, once the contract expires in February 2023, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the platform. situation . A Deloitte spokesperson confirmed that the contract will not be renewed.

The agency is expected to shift its education services to BAM Technologies, according to Tara Clements, an army spokesman. That company did not respond to a request for comment from

“Deloitte will continue to perform on their current contract with ArmyIgnitED and help ensure a smooth transition to the new platform,” Clements told in a statement.

“We deeply appreciate Soldiers’ service and sacrifice and know how important the military’s assistance is to the men and women who serve,” Karen Walsh, a Deloitte spokesperson, told in a statement. “Over the past year, in coordination with Army leadership, we have made improvements to ArmyIgnitED to address specific issues, improve the soldier experience, and accelerate tuition reimbursement.”

In addition to the military’s tuition platform, Deloitte has a long track record of taking on complicated IT projects. It was recently awarded a $106 million contract to develop an artificial intelligence hub for the Pentagon

But the company also struggled with other projects, such as a more than $600 million IT system for Rhode Island, the Unified Health Infrastructure Project, or UHIP. That system, launched in 2016, was to integrate 48 state and federal benefit programs, including Medicaid, food aid and subsidized childcare.

The program immediately went into turbulence, with 300,000 mostly low-income Rhode Islanders who lack access to critical government support. A state investigation found that the system was not yet ready for launch and that Deloitte officials falsely told the state governor that the platform was “all green.”

“While Deloitte was selected for its experience with these types of projects, it has not consistently adhered to industry best practices,” he said. a report from 2017 to then-government Gina Raimondo, who is now the United States Secretary of Commerce. “The state relied too much on Deloitte’s experience in the industry to ensure successful project delivery and therefore has not committed sufficient state resources to adequately monitor the seller.”

Later, Deloitte faced adversity in Florida after Governor Ron DeSantis’s Medicaid division, the Agency for Health Care Administration, awarded the company $135 million to modernize its IT systems after it stumbled upon an unemployment system.

In the spring of 2020, the Trump administration has awarded Deloitte a $44 million no-bid contract to build a website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to manage inventory and plan COVID-19 vaccines. The website performed poorly, which: urged most states to launch their own programs instead of using Deloitte’s system for free

In the meantime, service chiefs tell soldiers to keep their colleges informed about any financial or registration hurdles caused by ArmyIgnitED. Some schools also have specific rules against imposing late fees on service workers and vets who use military benefits

ArmyIgnitED is expected to remain online during the transition to a new contractor, with all site features, including the delayed ones, expected to be operational by early 2023, Clements said. The ArmyIgnitED Facebook page is still peppered almost daily with complaints from dozens of soldiers.

“Go to your local training center; that counselor can contact the college that this is a military candidate and they will try to work it out,” Commander Sgt. maj. Faith Alexander, the chief enlisted leader for the military’s education systems, said at City Hall on Friday. “Don’t be like that one soldier” Fort Benning I saw that waited for his fifth message.”

— Steve Beynon can be reached at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: Army pledges to repay soldiers affected by broken tuition assistance website

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