Jeff Zients to head Obama's 'tech surge' team fixing HealthCare.gov

Jeff Zients, a former corporate executive and one of President Barack Obama's economic advisers, will lead the "tech surge" team focused on fixing the flawed HealthCare.gov website, CBS News reports.

Zients, slated to become director of the National Economic Council in January, served for more than a year as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Obama promised the "best and brightest" tech experts will come to the federal government's aid, with U.S. technology chief Todd Park reported to be among those enlisted.

In a blog post Tuesday, Kathleen Sebelius (pictured right), secretary of Health and Human Services, said the "surge" team would include "additional experts and specialists drawn from within government, our contractors, and industry, including veterans of top Silicon Valley companies. ... This new infusion of talent will bring a powerful array of subject-matter expertise and skills, including extensive experience scaling major IT systems."

USA Today reports that telecommunications company Verizon will be among those lending expertise, though it's reportedly among the companies already under contract.

Silicon Valley companies, though, reportedly aren't lining up for what Politico calls "not really a spotlight moment." It quotes Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen saying, "The system is already built, it's already a disaster, so you're going to bring in Silicon Valley to do what? You could get Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Jeff Bezos on a plane, but what are they going to do at this point?"

Meanwhile, IT service provider The Standish Group, which keeps a database of some 50,000 development projects, told Computerworld that only 6.4 percent of IT projects valued at more than $10 million between 2003 and 2012 were successful. It found that 52 percent of large projects were "challenged"--over budget, behind schedule or didn't meet user expectations--and 41.4 percent were deemed failures.

Jim Johnson, Standish Group founder and chairman, said HealthCare.gov "didn't have a chance in hell." Fairfax, Va.-based CGI Federal was awarded a $93.7 million contract in 2011 to build the health insurance exchange.

Republicans are calling for Sebelius's head, but The Washington Post urges hearing out HHS leaders in congressional testimony before canning anyone. Sebelius is scheduled to testify about the website's woes next week before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

To learn more:
- read the CBS News  article
- here's the Sebelius post
- check out the USA Today story
- find the Politico article
- read the Post piece
- check out the Computerworld article

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