Obama Taps Microsoft Exec. to Run Healthcare Website

Kurt DelBene to take over repairs of HealthCare.gov

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David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Kurt DelBene

The Obama administration has selected former Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene to oversee repairs to the troubled HealthCare.gov website, an official announced Tuesday.

DelBene, the former president of the Microsoft Office Division and husband of Washington Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene, replaces Jeff Zients, the former consultant and soon-to-be Director of the National Economic Council. Zients was hastily brought in in October to fix the website after its troubled launch. News of DelBene’s selection was first reported by Politico.

DelBene, who left Microsoft in June, will begin management of HealthCare.gov starting Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a blog post. “Kurt has proven expertise in heading large, complex technology teams and in product development,” Sebelius said. “He will be a tremendous asset in our work.”

In a statement through HHS, Microsoft founder Bill Gates called DelBene “a talented and capable executive, with a track record of successfully managing complex large-scale technology projects.” Current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said DelBene’s “technical and business skills will be invaluable in his new endeavor.”

“Working with Kurt over many years, I know him to be a passionate advocate for using technology to solve difficult problems at scale,” Gates said. “He brings deep expertise as a manager and engineer to his new responsibilities.”

See Sebelius’s full blog post below:

Former Microsoft Executive Kurt DelBene To Replace Jeff Zients
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Tuesday, 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.