By U-T San Diego Editorial Board
5 p.m. Jan. 17, 2014

Advances in information technology have driven America’s productivity revolution over the past 20 years, to the immense benefit of our economy and quality of life. But this productivity revolution has been largely limited to the private sector. In sharp contrast, government computer projects routinely lead to frustration and waste.

The latest example comes from the U.S. Border Patrol. As U-T Watchdog reported, a $1.5 billion computer system meant to track everyone entering the nation by land, air and sea is defective and probably can’t be salvaged. This is only the latest example of serious waste as the agency’s budget has soared in recent years.

But there’s a bigger context here: the long history of government computer initiatives going badly. This tech klutziness is particularly common in California. In the home of Silicon Valley, huge problems with the state government’s computer systems are close to the norm. Among the afflicted agencies: the DMV, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, and the departments in charge of prisons, courts, social services and unemployment benefits.

How is this possible in the Golden State, ground zero for global innovation?

After all these debacles, there is only one explanation that makes sense: incompetence.