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Game Changer: Obama Appoints Ex-Microsoft Executive Over Website Repairs

Kurt DelBenePresident Obama has chosen a former Microsoft executive, Kurt DelBene, to replace Jeffrey D. Zients as head of the effort to finish repairs on the government’s health insurance website, administration officials said on Tuesday.

DelBene, who will start on Wednesday and stay at least through the first half of 2014, was president of Microsoft’s Office division for nearly three years until a corporate reorganization in July. At the time, corporate representatives said that DelBene, a two-decade veteran of the technology giant, had chosen to retire and was not forced out.

DelBene’s wife, Suzan, who also was a Microsoft executive, was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 2012, representing the Washington State district where Microsoft has its headquarters.

“Kurt has proven expertise in heading large, complex technology teams and in product development,” Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said in a statement. “He will be a tremendous asset in our work.”

Sebelius said DelBene would work with her, as well as with the White House and the teams of administration officials now in place, “to see this project through its next important phase.” She added, “Because of the site’s progress, his responsibilities, while similar to Jeff’s, will reflect an evolution of focus” as officials seek to build capacity as well as reliability in the system, and allay privacy concerns.

For months, the president and Sebelius have been criticized for not anticipating the online complexities and potential problems, and for failing to assign responsibility for the project to a single person with experience running similar projects. In her statement, Sebelius reflected the change in thinking.

“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,” she said.


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