White House Taps Microsoft Office Executive Kurt DelBene To Fix Obamacare Site

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The White House is tapping the private sector for its next point man to fix the troubled Obamacare website.

The administration is set to announce that Kurt DelBene, an executive at Microsoft, will succeed Jeff Zients in leading the overhaul of the embattled HealthCare.gov, according to four sources with knowledge of the decision.

DelBene was most recently the president of the Microsoft Office Division and has been with the company since 1992. He is also the husband of freshman Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.).  It was announced he would retire from the company after Ballmer’s re-org.

“I’ve long said that we need more people to enter public service who are focused on delivering results,” Suzan DelBene said in a statement. “Kurt has demonstrated throughout his career that he is about results, and his decision to join the administration will be extremely valuable to their efforts to improve the website.”

Led by New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, several Senate Democrats wrote to President Barack Obama late last month, asking the White House to quickly replace Zients.

“A project of this size and scope demands the sustained leadership and day-to-day management of a chief executive officer – someone whose sole responsibility would be an unrelenting focus on healthcare.gov and who has experience overseeing large and complex consumer-facing technology projects,” the senators wrote.

A number of tech executives are meeting with President Obama today, including Microsoft General Counsuel Brad Smith: Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith, Apple CEO And Others To Meet With US President Obama Tomorrow

Source: Politico via Steven Sinofsky

Statement by the White House

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

Posted December 17, 2013

Today, I am pleased to announce Kurt DelBene as my Senior Advisor and successor to Jeff Zients. Jeff did an outstanding job working with our team to provide management advice and counsel on the HealthCare.gov project.  Today, the site is night and day from what it was when it launched on October 1.  I am very grateful for his service and leadership. His role leading the management of the site proved critical and today we are announcing his successor: Kurt DelBene.

Kurt, who most recently served as president of the Microsoft Office Division, will lead and manage HealthCare.gov starting this Wednesday.  Kurt has proven expertise in heading large, complex technology teams and in product development. He will be a tremendous asset in our work.

Kurt will work closely with me, the White House, and the teams and senior leadership in place at HHS and CMS to see this project through its next important phase as the CMS team continues to build on their initial progress.  He has agreed to serve in this role for at least the first half of next year.  Because of the site’s progress, his responsibilities, while similar to Jeff’s, will reflect an evolution of focus as we move on to the next phase.

First, Kurt will provide management expertise, operations oversight, and critical advice on additional enrollment channels, field operations, marketing and communications. The President and I believe strongly in having one person, with strong experience and expertise in management and execution, who is thinking 24/7 about HealthCare.gov.  Kurt’s leadership and management of HealthCare.gov will be in consultation with CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and in partnership with the project’s general contractor, QSSI.

Second, Kurt will execute the plan in place, so that we can ensure the site’s performance is strong through the close of open enrollment on March 31, 2014.  This will include a focus on increasing system stability, redundancy and capacity, and building on improvements to the user interface, while continuing to prioritize security and privacy issues in line with industry best practices.

The creation of this role reflects ideas we received from key stakeholders, including Senators Shaheen, Kaine, Blumenthal, Warner, Udall, Coons and Landrieu and others.

I am committed to providing and directing the additional resources needed for this project. We are all very excited to have Kurt DelBene on board as we work to make our mission a reality: accessible, quality, affordable health coverage for every American who needs it.

 Press release from Microsoft:

Kurt DelBene, a former Microsoft executive, has been named senior advisor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and will lead and manage HealthCare.gov, the federal government’s health insurance website, in his new role.

DelBene recently retired from Microsoft after two decades of leading large, technical teams at the company, including being president of the Microsoft Business Division, general manager of Microsoft Outlook and group manager of Microsoft Exchange.

“Kurt is a talented and capable executive, with a track record of successfully managing complex large-scale technology projects,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and chairman. “Working with Kurt over many years, I know him to be a passionate advocate for using technology to solve difficult problems at scale.  He brings deep expertise as a manager and engineer to his new responsibilities. I’m certain he’ll make an important positive contribution in his new role with HHS.”

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer called DelBene a “phenomenal leader who established Microsoft Office as a world-class service for billions of people. Clearly, Kurt’s technical and business skills will be invaluable in his new endeavor.”

DelBene was president of Microsoft’s Office Division in July 2013, when he announced he would retire from Microsoft at the end of this year. After his announcement, he transitioned into a short-term role as special advisor to Qi Lu, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Applications and Services Group.

DelBene will see the HealthCare.gov project through its next important phase as the content management system team continues build on its initial progress, and he has agreed to serve in this role for at least the first half of next year

About Author

Suril is a scientist, journalist and obsessive Microsoft observer. He holds an advanced degree in Biotechnology with minors in Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology. Send him tips on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/surilamin

  • techieg

    Does this mean the website will be moved to more capable technologies such as Windows Server/CloudOS/Azure?