NOMADS will end up as scrap | NevadaAppeal.com

NOMADS will end up as scrap

OurView

When is it time to pull the plug on NOMADS?

In hindsight, perhaps it was back in 1993 or 1994 when it first became apparent that the Nevada Operations Multi-Automated Data System was too unwieldy to do all the things the state wanted it to do.

But it doesn’t do much good to say so now.

Nevada has sunk $126 million into a computer system that was to simplify and standardize the massive amount of information that goes into processing child-support payments. State officials wanted it to do even more – link that information with welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and other programs.

The impetus was federal law intended to keep track of deadbeat parents, who too often are able to avoid their responsibilities to their children by moving from state to state whenever a district attorney caught up with them.

Like most good intentions, the idea lacked something in the execution. In this case, it was an antiquated computer operating system that is more dysfunctional than the families it is trying to track.

As Nevada Appeal reporter Geoff Dornan detailed in Sunday’s edition, NOMADS is a system that time – especially as measured in computer upgrades – has whizzed by.

Only a few people could have imagined in 1989, when NOMADS was conceived, how life on our home PCs and the Internet would change. Not only are we asking Family Services caseworkers to go back to a pre-Windows ’95 world, we are asking them to do it on a program so buggy that most users would have tossed it in the trash by now.

Can the state afford to do the same?

We don’t think it can afford not to scrap NOMADS. The sooner the better.

NOMADS will never work well. It is a tangle of bad design decisions, and attempts at patches that don’t solve some of its fundamental problems.

In a world where $1,000 buys a computer off the shelf that practically runs itself, it’s ridiculous for NOMADS to require a 900-page manual. That’s the definition of user-unfriendly.

Nevada must get the NOMADS system working well enough to be certified by the federal government so we won’t be fined. Then dump it.

There are systems that will do the job. Every state in the nation must abide by the federal requirements to develop a system that will track deadbeats across state line. A few, like California, already have dumped unwieldy systems. Some say that have working systems, although smaller and simpler than NOMADS.

It will be easier to find a new program than to force NOMADS to work.