How Time Machine saved the USDA (and all us taxpayers) money

In the heart of the debate season, candidates are in the midst of making promises that the studies show they won't keep. How they will save this and implement that. Then we all get angered when we learn of these disappointing reports of government bureaucrats conducting acts of waste, fraud and abuse of our hard-earned tax money.

The idea has become so prevalent that some of us may actually think our government has no intention of saving us money. They wouldn’t know savings from a hole in the ground.

Well, every now and then, one agency does have a stroke of ethics and fiscal responsibility, and that single flash can save taxpayers thousands of dollars (if not millions) and actually, maybe, create an efficient government agency (that should seem like an oxymoron, right?).

Let us tell you a quick story about the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA implements the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program, which is a food-stamp program designed to provide healthy food for pregnant women and mothers of young children who are at or below the poverty line. The program has had its challenges over the years, especially dealing with large databases in conjunction with the states which have their own databases for WIC participants.

The WIC program runs its databases and various administrative tasks through Microsoft’s Active Directory platform, and that has been problematic for the USDA in the past.

At different times, the USDA would have to conduct software tests that are date-sensitive; but Active Directory did not allow its system or domain server clocks to be altered, so WIC officials would have to constantly wait until a future time became current before running a test, and that often created backlogs and bottlenecks.

The USDA learned about Time Machine software, and was able to implement and execute it layered on top of the system clock, and it allowed the USDA to run the various tests it needed to, when it needed to, and could use the virtual clock on Time Machine to do it without altering the system clock.

This allowed testing to be more regular and consistent, and established a rhythm and efficiency at the USDA in the WIC program that makes it run more smoothly than ever before, as the numbers of WIC enrollees and participants has increased in recent years.

It is easy to see how the installation of the right automated software testing tools can easily save an organization thousands of dollars in administrative costs. And that, friends, is called being a good steward of taxpayer money.