Former Microsoft exec Kurt DelBene tapped to run

The Obama administration has tapped former Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene to take over, according to an announcement Tuesday by Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary.

DelBene, who was the president of Microsoft Office Division until he recently retired, begins on Wednesday. He has agreed to serve in the role “at least the first half of next year,” the announcement said. DelBene is the husband of  Rep.  Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.).

In a blog post on Microsoft, Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman, praised DelBene:

Kurt is a talented and capable executive, with a track record of successfully managing complex large-scale technology projects. 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.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, said DelBene was 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 takes over from Jeff Zients, who stepped in when the government site ran into technical difficulties.  “Kurt has proven expertise in heading large, complex technology teams and in product development. He will be a tremendous asset in our work,” Sebelius said in her post on the announcement.

The announcement comes as President Obama is meeting with tech executives Tuesday such as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Apple CEO Tim Cook to discuss a range of issues, including government deployment of technology.

The executives were also expected to discuss the principles they would like to see enacted to address problems with the national security surveillance program as well as the economic impact revelations of online surveillance has had. The president is expected to announce sometime soon his next steps for reforming online surveillance and may ask the tech executives for feedback on the proposals.

Updated to reflect comments made by Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

At top: Former Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene will take handle the overhaul of the site, the Obama administration said Tuesday. (Microsoft file photo)

Michelle Quinn Michelle Quinn (213 Posts)

Michelle Quinn is a Business Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. Prior to her current role, she was the Silicon Valley correspondent at Politico covering tech policy and politics. She has also covered the tech industry at the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. She was a blogger for the New York Times.