Breaking: Microsoft exec to take over Healthcare.gov rescue

posted at 12:01 pm on December 17, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Everyone who loves Internet Explorer and Windows 8 will rejoice at the latest appointment from the White House to rescue its core policy from incompetence.  The rest of us will just marvel at the irony:

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.

But DelBene isn’t just a Microsoft executive.  He’s also the husband of a Congresswoman. Guess which party?

DelBene is currently 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.).

Other than being the husband of a Democratic Representative, DelBene doesn’t dabble much in checkbook politics, according to Open Secrets.  Over three election cycles, he’s donated $16,540 to Democratic candidates, with a little over half of that coming in the 2014 cycle. His bio shows why he’s at least more qualified than Zients to take charge of a web-portal disaster:

As president of the Microsoft Office Division, Kurt DelBene is responsible for driving Microsoft’s global productivity strategy for information workers. DelBene oversees the engineering and marketing functions for a wide range of productivity products and services, including Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio.

Previously, he served as the senior vice president for the Microsoft Business Division, responsible for the development of client and server software that collectively delivers to organizations and individuals a holistic productivity experience, including authoring, collaboration, communications, information sharing, and project management. In this role, he oversaw development teams in the Office engineering organization including Office desktop applications, Office Web Applications, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Office Communications Server and Office Labs.

This frees up Zients to take his appointed position as director of Obama’s National Economics Council as planned on January 1. In his brief tenure as fixer, the promises of a revamped Healthcare.gov went from “fully functional” to “a significantly different user experience,” and the December 1 delivery didn’t even really produce that significant a change.  DelBene at least has the experience needed to assess a bad system and determine what it takes to fix it, a process that Microsoft has used on more than a few occasions for its own products at the expense of their consumers.

The problem is this — what it will take to fix the system and its gaping security holes is months of off-line development to make up for the failures in the 42 months HHS had to develop it in the first place. Without that option, DelBene will probably only be incrementally more successful than Zients, and consumers will continue to put their private data at considerable risk just to discover that the system isn’t enrolling them in insurance reliably.

Update: How could I have forgotten Clippy?


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You can fix a locomotive but you can’t fix a train wreck.

fogw on December 17, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Old and Busted: Brick your XBOX
The New Hotness: Brick yourself

Christien on December 17, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Blue screen of death coming your way…

albill on December 17, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Everyone’s favorite corporation coughs up the next leader of everyone’s favorite govt program.

Akzed on December 17, 2013 at 12:06 PM

What reboot to Windows 8.1?

ricor on December 17, 2013 at 12:07 PM

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.

What the heck? Dude has only been there two months and is just getting started. Why did they even bring him in? A place holder until they could find a crony that might actually be able to fix this beast?

Johnnyreb on December 17, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Other than being the husband of a Democratic Representative, DelBene doesn’t dabble much in checkbook politics, according to Open Secrets.

$16K? Are you being sarcastic?

BobMbx on December 17, 2013 at 12:07 PM

0b00baCare soon to be renamed Vista.

Akzed on December 17, 2013 at 12:10 PM

What a bunch of losers, if this guy had anything to do with the Windows 8 rollout he’s clueless too. Married to a Dem congresswoman to, how odd is that? fogw is right, can’t fix a train wreck, just clean up the wreckage and start over.

major dad on December 17, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Stage 5: Rewards for the Uninvolved.

My favorite.

mojo on December 17, 2013 at 12:11 PM

They are hitting ctrl-alt-del on Obamacare.

Mark1971 on December 17, 2013 at 12:11 PM

All is well….take that you right wing extremists
-dems

cmsinaz on December 17, 2013 at 12:12 PM

Don’t worry. If the Internet Exploder folks can’t fix it, they’ll just call in the Geek Squad from Best Buy.

Christien on December 17, 2013 at 12:12 PM

Oh look! It’s the *DelBenes! From Washington! In Washington! D.C.!
.
.
.
*pronounced Dell Bennies, as in employee bennies that used to include health care insurance as part of one’s hiring.
*** SPITS ***

ExpressoBold on December 17, 2013 at 12:12 PM

They are hitting ctrl-alt-del on Obamacare.

Mark1971 on December 17, 2013 at 12:11 PM

winner!

the thread can now be closed

cmsinaz on December 17, 2013 at 12:13 PM

Ed –
You mean the websites aren’t working perfectly on day one seventy eight?

verbaluce on October 1, 2013 at 10:18 AM

NotCoach on December 17, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Oh great. Healthcare navigators to be replaced by Clippy.

rbj on December 17, 2013 at 12:15 PM

$16K? Are you being sarcastic?

BobMbx on December 17, 2013 at 12:07 PM

That’s small potatoes compared to many executives.

Bitter Clinger on December 17, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Blue screen of death panels

Fabozz on December 17, 2013 at 12:17 PM

I thought that Zeints was the man to fix it all

ConservativePartyNow on December 17, 2013 at 12:17 PM

I left Windows for Mac because of MS BS. No option to leave the DumbassCare crapfest, though.

trapeze on December 17, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Blue screen of death coming your way…

albill on December 17, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Exactly

CrazyGene on December 17, 2013 at 12:18 PM

I’ll wager that he’ll be making more than $16k, so you might say that it was a smart “investment”.

GarandFan on December 17, 2013 at 12:20 PM

6 months, maybe 9 and he’ll throw up his hands in frustration over how govt works. private sector execs cant handle the way govt works and the lack of accountability.

chasdal on December 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Ed –
You mean the websites aren’t working perfectly on day one seventy eight?

verbaluce on October 1, 2013 at 10:18 AM

NotCoach on December 17, 2013 at 12:15 PM

That never grows old.

Ha ha ha

gwelf on December 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Evil private enterprise to the rescue of Great and Glorious People’s Insurance web site.

mankai on December 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Breaking:

Heh. Indeed.

Christien on December 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Awaiting ACA Service Pack 2 with barely contained anticipation…

PatHenry on December 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM

obama’care”s problems are not the site.

One note to the site – it has, so far, cost more to advertise it than it has to develop the disaster.

obama’care’ will bring you the dead and their families, on TV.

obama and all who voted for obama’care’ will be responsible for thousands of dead people come 2014.

Then come the millions who’ll lose perfectly good insurance.

This national travesty will look at the site as a peanut.

Don’t expect the Rs to do anything about it.

May all who brung obama’care’, incl. the ins. companies, the med. device companies, doctors who stood with him, and all the RINOs go directly to Hell. Burn slowly or just go poof.

You ruined the land and her children.

Congratulations America! Both parties fluke you, royally.

Schadenfreude on December 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Shoulda given it to the Android Geeks over at XDA Developers.

NOMOBO on December 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM

What a surprise, the Administration is rearranging the deck chairs on the RMS Titanic again….

Athos on December 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM

So… who’s gonna rescue the state exchanges?

mankai on December 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM

They are hitting ctrl-alt-del on Obamacare.

Mark1971 on December 17, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Press ctrl-alt-del

Select process tab

Highlight Healthcare.gov

Select ‘End Process’

“Do you want to end ‘Healthcare.gov’?

If an open sore is associated with this clusterfark, it will close and you will lose any inflated premiums, deductibles, restricted doctor access, and exploding associated costs. If you end a government process, it might result in higher employment and wealth creation. Are you sure you want to continue?”

Select ‘End Process’

NotCoach on December 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM

The only thing less agile than a corporate behemoth is a government bureaucracy. The only thing less agile than a government bureaucracy is multiple government bureaucracies. This guy has his work cut out for him.

gwelf on December 17, 2013 at 12:23 PM

Jeff Zients looked into the abyss and saw his image in it.

Schadenfreude on December 17, 2013 at 12:23 PM

Evil private enterprise to the rescue of Great and Glorious People’s Insurance web site.

mankai on December 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Ha ha ha.

And remember Zeints is from Bain Capital.

gwelf on December 17, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Hey, Cantor is married to a flaming life-long leftist.

Schadenfreude on December 17, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Microsoft already has all our health records, tax records and insurance information, so it’s all good.

mankai on December 17, 2013 at 12:24 PM

The left hates a monopoly. Unless that monopoly is a corrupt, opaque and unaccountable government bureaucracy.

gwelf on December 17, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Everyone who loves Internet Explorer and Windows 8 will rejoice at the latest appointment from the White House to rescue its core policy from incompetence.

LOLOL

Midas on December 17, 2013 at 12:26 PM

So WH hires firm whose 2 out of the last three OS releases have been despised! Brilliant!

crazywater on December 17, 2013 at 12:26 PM

They tried to get Idiot Sawant to take it over, but she is currently occupied with Boeing.

Christien on December 17, 2013 at 12:26 PM

0b00baCare soon to be renamed Vista.

Akzed on December 17, 2013 at 12:10 PM

May it go the way of Clippy.

Schadenfreude on December 17, 2013 at 12:27 PM

NotCoach on December 17, 2013 at 12:15 PM

The classics never go out of style.

Hill60 on December 17, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Old and Busted: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
The New Hotness: Android 5.0 Crap Sandwich

Christien on December 17, 2013 at 12:28 PM

Hey DelBene, here’s a suggestion. Put a working start button on it.

DanMan on December 17, 2013 at 12:29 PM

I see you’re trying to buy insurance. I can turn over all your private records to the federal government. Would you like me to do this?

YES NO

mankai on December 17, 2013 at 12:29 PM

Microsoft exec to take over Healthcare.gov rescue

Confirmed, Healthcare.gov based on Windows ME.

Happy Nomad on December 17, 2013 at 12:30 PM

I’m actually surprised, to be honest. I’m a Mac guy (Heck, I code Objective C), but going with Microsoft seems a bit odd. Why didn’t they tap someone at Apple? Microsoft is, generally speaking, more conservative than Apple, and if there’s one thing that Apple does well it is to take something complex and strip it down to the basic functionality–and optimize the heck out of it. If there’s any process that could use Apple’s brand of making the hard seem easy, it’s healthcare. Plus, Apple has Al Gore on the board of directors (much to my dismay). That’s a much bigger name in progressive politics than this freshman democrat congress critter.

Why didn’t they tap Apple? Heck, even get Scott Forstall, who was the founder of the iPhone and no longer employed by Apple?

I’m genuinely curious as to why they went the Microsoft route. Unless they tried to get Apple and Apple bailed when they saw the disaster they would have to deal with?

In fact, for such a liberal company, why hasn’t Apple done more? Google sent over a ton of people to “rescue” Healthcare.gov. Microsoft is now tapped to lead the effort. Apple is nowhere? Why?

Vanceone on December 17, 2013 at 12:31 PM

“Shoulda given it to the Android Geeks over at XDA Developers.

NOMOBO on December 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM”

+1

You are so correct, those guys work magic!! Im a android modder on the side

ninjacoastie on December 17, 2013 at 12:33 PM

I still have Office 2000, but I think Clippy doesn’t work with the Windows 7 laptop I bought in 2011.

Heh.

22044 on December 17, 2013 at 12:33 PM

I really wanted to make a snarky Clippy quote starting out “It looks like you’re trying to …” but all I keep hearing in my head is “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

You know this is never going away, right?

M240H on December 17, 2013 at 12:33 PM

Clippy! LOL again.

Midas on December 17, 2013 at 12:34 PM

Vanceone on December 17, 2013 at 12:31 PM

C’mon. You know how this likely went down. They sat around brainstorming ways to fix it, and the best idea was to call Bill Gates to ask him for Top.Men.

Christien on December 17, 2013 at 12:35 PM

I see you’re trying to buy insurance. I can turn over all your private records to the federal government. Would you like me to do this?

YES NO

mankai on December 17, 2013 at 12:29 PM

What was I thinking?… this is more like it:

I see you’re trying to buy insurance. I can turn over all your private records to the federal government. Would you like me to do this?

YES YES

mankai on December 17, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Clippy.

LOL!

Murphy9 on December 17, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Heh, Ed replaced the guy’s picture with one of Clippy :)

Schadenfreude on December 17, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Click START to exit…

Electrongod on December 17, 2013 at 12:37 PM

WTF does Microsoft know about consumer websites?

kcewa on December 17, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Nice to see you back, Ed!

JetBoy on December 17, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Nothing approximates democrat governance like microsoft bloatware.

Murphy9 on December 17, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Healthcare.gov would succeed if it were more like a PS4 game…..

Getting a guy from Microslop to take over does not send a tingle up my leg.

redguy on December 17, 2013 at 12:38 PM

I’m still hoping Biden will reveal the number for the web site.

Christien on December 17, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Step-by-step audio instructions to navigate the ObamaCare webste available for download to for Zune.

JetBoy on December 17, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Vanceone on December 17, 2013 at 12:31 PM

This is all speculation of course but:

Apple seems to have a much more agile development structure than Microsoft. Jobs would fire or berate people if they didn’t perform. There wasn’t much sclerosis in Apple as a result. Microsoft seems to have a much more bureaucratic environment which more closely matches the government.

Microsoft supports a much much larger hardware base and more diverse product offerings. Microsoft supports a lot of legacy while Apple feels free to innovate (as does Google, Samsung, others in the same markets etc). Government managed healthcare is a nightmare of interfacing with legacy systems.

gwelf on December 17, 2013 at 12:39 PM

WTF does Microsoft know about consumer websites?

kcewa on December 17, 2013 at 12:37 PM

WTF does Microslop know about the web. Period.

redguy on December 17, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Update: How could I have forgotten Clippy?

What “wonderful” memories. /

TXUS on December 17, 2013 at 12:40 PM

What was I thinking?… this is more like it:

I see you’re trying to buy insurance. I can turn over all your private records to the federal government. Would you like me to do this?

YES YES

mankai on December 17, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Pop up window? No way. You signed away your rights when you clicked Accept on the EULA.

gwelf on December 17, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Blue screen of death coming your way…

albill on December 17, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Exactly

CrazyGene on December 17, 2013 at 12:18 PM

The Blue Screen of Death will have a whole new meaning.

There Goes the Neighborhood on December 17, 2013 at 12:42 PM

“Get a Mac.”

Akzed on December 17, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Awaiting ACA Service Pack 2 with barely contained anticipation…

PatHenry on December 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM

I’ll await Service Pack 6, when they finally get around to addressing security fixes.

TXUS on December 17, 2013 at 12:44 PM

I really wanted to make a snarky Clippy quote starting out “It looks like you’re trying to …” but all I keep hearing in my head is “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

You know this is never going away, right?

M240H on December 17, 2013 at 12:33 PM

I never liked Clippy. He always struck me as judgemental as the woman on my Garmin GPS. The sound of disgust in her voice when she “recalculates” is enough the make sure you turn when she tells you to.

Happy Nomad on December 17, 2013 at 12:44 PM

The Obama Administration is the blue screen of Presidential politics…

…their motto, ALT-F4rward…

Athos on December 17, 2013 at 12:44 PM

He’s just a figurehead. Fixing this issue with healthcare.gov is a task unlike anything he’s faced before in the private sector. You can’t fix government, by it’s very nature it’s a disaster and should stay away from taking on big projects.

exceller on December 17, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Vanceone on December 17, 2013 at 12:31 PM

This is all speculation of course but:

Apple seems to have a much more agile development structure than Microsoft. Jobs would fire or berate people if they didn’t perform. There wasn’t much sclerosis in Apple as a result. Microsoft seems to have a much more bureaucratic environment which more closely matches the government.

Microsoft supports a much much larger hardware base and more diverse product offerings. Microsoft supports a lot of legacy while Apple feels free to innovate (as does Google, Samsung, others in the same markets etc). Government managed healthcare is a nightmare of interfacing with legacy systems.

gwelf on December 17, 2013 at 12:39 PM

I think it’s simpler. Microsoft is huge. Everyone recognizes the name. And all they really want is a figurehead with name recognition. If he can fix things, good. If not, he can be blamed. Competence would be nice, but not necessary.

There Goes the Neighborhood on December 17, 2013 at 12:45 PM

(NOT RESPONDING)

ted c on December 17, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Clippy was a great reason to move over to another Office suite.

Win 8.1 is but another in a long line of MotherShip awful O/S’s…

Vista before that was a horror and an actual downgrade from XP x64.

Of course XP, itself, wasn’t all that good until SP2 which is why I avoided it for so long in favor of Win2K. I stayed on W2K up to the point they got XP actually stable and somewhat useful.

Windows ME, ahhh… now that one I never installed but just left on the heap.

Which was worse: Win95 or Win98? Decisions, decisions… they both got BSODs way too often.

Then MS-DOS 6 and Win 3.0: the combination from hell.

MS-DOS 4 was no winner, either.

Then there was Microsoft Bob! Now there was a true disaster that anyone could have pointed at and asked: WTF? A true failure that no amount of tinkering could fix.

When you get a manager from the MotherShip you are just as likely, if not more likely to get someone who has run bad projects as the few who run good projects soon run away after that. And even if they have run good projects, the environment in Redmond makes that a hard thing to replicate. They live on software being ‘just good enough’ and massive licensing deals.

I live on waiting until they have something useful and getting it way after launch second-hand or on flea bay, or massively discounted when the newest, brightest flop arrives and the older, somewhat useful stuff goes on discount. That will never, ever get me back to MS-Office, though. Ever. Or Internet Exploder unless it has someone else’s front end that strips out the MS junk and overhead and puts in something streamlined. I detest the MS ‘experience’. And the Apple ‘experience’.

Hoping someone from the MotherShip can save the front end of Obamacare… these mortals, when will they ever learn?

ajacksonian on December 17, 2013 at 12:48 PM

I never liked Clippy.

Happy Nomad on December 17, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Clippy is a racist!

Deafdog on December 17, 2013 at 12:48 PM

Hmmm. Microsoft vs. Apple…….

http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20031101

There Goes the Neighborhood on December 17, 2013 at 12:48 PM

You are so correct, those guys work magic!! Im a android modder on the side

ninjacoastie on December 17, 2013 at 12:33 PM

I think all it would take would be a well written Xposed Module. ;-)

NOMOBO on December 17, 2013 at 12:48 PM

Sebelius=Jen from The IT Crowd
Obama=Douglas
CGI Federal=Roy and Moss

Christien on December 17, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Been lucky with MS OS so far. 98 SE, 2000, XP, and now 7.

My good luck’s gotta run out eventually.

22044 on December 17, 2013 at 12:49 PM

New thrills running up the legs at MicroSoft NBC.

But will a Microsoft guru-geek really be able to fix Kathyware on punch cards, or will he have to start over from scratch?

Steve Z on December 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Ah. Microsoft. The company that gave us:

…the Cancel Button that doesn’t.

…the Progress Bar that isn’t.

…the File Explorer that won’t.

…the Disable Automatic Updates setting that can’t.

Tsar of Earth on December 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM

What was I thinking?… this is more like it:

I see you’re trying to buy insurance. I can turn over all your private records to the federal government. Would you like me to do this?

YES YES

mankai on December 17, 2013 at 12:36 PM

The “YES NO” is OK. When has Obama stopped lying!

TerryW on December 17, 2013 at 12:53 PM

Where is the stupidly named loveofcountry to whine about collusion between business and government?

Is it spaghetti-o time?

Murphy9 on December 17, 2013 at 12:54 PM

I have to laugh, I worked on a big IT project a number of years ago. It was a clusterfark too. The last thing they did before folding up was calling in some Big Shot from Microsoft as Project Manager.

southsideironworks on December 17, 2013 at 12:55 PM

Breaking:
Heh. Indeed.

Christien on December 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

ISWYDT

heretic on December 17, 2013 at 12:56 PM

This is the guy who managed the Office 365 release: a subscription-based cloud app that is so horrifically unspeakable that I can’t even speak of it.

That’s all you need to know. 0care is doomed and almost certainly was never intended to work.

ZenDraken on December 17, 2013 at 12:56 PM

CLIPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!! <33333

Sachiko on December 17, 2013 at 12:59 PM

DelBene at least has the experience needed to assess a bad system and determine what it takes to fix it, a process that Microsoft has used on more than a few occasions for its own products at the expense of their consumers.

Not necessarily so. All IT experience is not equal. What’s he going to do? Revamp the database do it runs on Access? Id be impressed if it was someone from SAP or Oracle, with enterprise experience. Microsoft not so much.

AH_C on December 17, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Bad move. They should’ve brought in reputation.com instead.

Christien on December 17, 2013 at 1:00 PM

private sector execs cant handle the way govt works and the lack of accountability.

chasdal on December 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Dude, this is Micro$oft we’re talking about. He’s gonna fit right in.

This frees up Zients to take his appointed position as director of Obama’s National Economics Council as planned on January 1.

So he can do to the economy what he’s done to 404care.gov………

NotCoach on December 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Heh.

GWB on December 17, 2013 at 1:01 PM

gwelf on December 17, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Let me offer one other possibility. They could not find a sucker at Apple.

JusDreamin on December 17, 2013 at 1:01 PM

Two words: Windows Vista.
Two more words: Windows Me.
Two more words: The Zune.

jukin3 on December 17, 2013 at 1:02 PM

What could go wrong?!?

Just think, now everyone can look forward to 45 minutes of “updates” every week whether you understand them or not? Security updates, program updates, fixes, fixes and let’s not forget those bugs!

I repeat, what could go wrong?!?

Lourdes on December 17, 2013 at 1:03 PM

I’m a little disappointed. I think Kevin, the IT minion from Despicable Me would have been a more sensible choice.

Happy Nomad on December 17, 2013 at 1:03 PM

This is the guy who managed the Office 365 release: a subscription-based cloud app that is so horrifically unspeakable that I can’t even speak of it.

That’s all you need to know. 0care is doomed and almost certainly was never intended to work.

ZenDraken on December 17, 2013 at 12:56 PM

I just had to download Office 2013 from Microsoft and install it for one of our computers, whose .xml tables look buggy in the Open Office app. The files look better, but as far as the installation process, it’s convoluted, invasive and pretty much tethers your information online to Microsoft in perpetuity. No wonder Team Obama picked DelBene for the job.

jon1979 on December 17, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Smartest man in the internetting thing and he has Clippy.

Lourdes on December 17, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Blue screen of death here we come!

Rufus on December 17, 2013 at 1:03 PM

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