Tech executive Kurt DelBene, who recently served as president of Microsoft's key Office division, was tapped by the government Tuesday to oversee the continued efforts to fix the troubled Obamacare website.
The move was announced by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services. DelBene has agreed to stay on the job through at least the first half of next year, she said.
DelBene will replace Jeff Zients, who was brought in to fix the site after the massive problems that prevented people from being able to sign up for health care coverage after the start of the program on Oct. 1.
Office, which includes the Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook products, is still one of the core products at Microsoft (, but it has been under pressure from increased competition from online applications such as Google Docs. Due to the threat from )Google (, Microsoft has started to )move more of Office online.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer praised DelBene's work transforming Office. "Clearly, Kurt's technical and business skills will be invaluable in his new endeavor," he said.
DelBene's retirement from Microsoft, which became effective Monday, was announced in July at the same time a more far-reaching reorganization of the business was announced. He has been serving in a short-term role as special adviser to the company since that announcement. The company has yet to name a new president of the Office Division since then.
DelBene's wife, Suzan, is a Democratic congresswoman representing a district in Washington state. She previously spent 12 years working at Microsoft and also helped start drugstore.com.
Last year, DelBene was Microsoft's third highest paid executive with total compensation of $7.5 million. According to company filings, that put him ahead of Ballmer and behind only Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner and Satya Nadella, who runs Microsoft's cloud and enterprise unit. DelBene said he will donate the salary he receives from HHS back to the treasury.
Zients has been serving on an interim basis, and he will now make his previously announced move to become director of the National Economic Council at the White House. He was originally slated to assume that role at start of the new year. But current director Gene Sperling will stay on an extra month as Zients transitions into the position.