Obama talks IT procurement

President Obama in the Oval Office (White House Photo)

President Barack Obama said he plans to look at the way the federal government buys technology after problems at the website marred the launch of open enrollment for insurance under the 2010 health care law.

"I, personally, have been frustrated with the problems around the website on health care," he told a small group of supporters at a political event in New York City on Nov. 4. "And it's inexcusable, and there are a whole range of things that we're going to need to do once we get this fixed -- to talk about federal procurement when it comes to IT and how that's organized." had suffered a 90-minute outage earlier the same day because of an overload on servers and a load balancing problem, according to Andy Slavitt,  group executive vice president at Optum, the parent division of Quality Software Services Inc., the lead contractor heading up fixes to

"We expect these occasional outages are likely to continue as a natural part of the process," Slavitt said on a call with reporters.

The contractors and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are working on a tight deadline as part of a "tech surge" to put the site in working order by Nov. 30. Former administration official and health care entrepreneur Jeff Zients is leading an effort to apply a "punch list" of fixes to problems plaguing site operation. Over the weekend, the team began addressing an issue affecting the way health insurance enrollment information is transmitted to insurance carriers. Thee enrollment forms, called 834s in the insurance industry, had been arriving with bad information. Recent fixes include making sure 834s include correct health insurance plan identification numbers and customer contact information.

Another repair put the "save and continue" button in working condition, to allow users to easily log in and out of the site. Verizon Terremark, the cloud provider hosting, installed dedicated switches to prevent further outages and improve system stability.

The problems with the site do not appear to be a result of intrusions or other security vulnerabilities, said CMS spokesperson Julie Bataille. "There's no evidence to suggest security has to do with issues we are currently experiencing," she said.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


  • Contracting
    8 prototypes of the border walls as tweeted by CBP San Diego

    DHS contractors face protests – on the streets

    Tech companies are facing protests internally from workers and externally from activists about doing for government amid controversial policies like "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration.

  • Workforce
    By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268

    At OPM, Weichert pushes direct hire, pay agent changes

    Margaret Weichert, now acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, is clearing agencies to make direct hires in IT, cyber and other tech fields and is changing pay for specialized occupations.

  • Cloud
    Shutterstock ID ID: 222190471 By wk1003mike

    IBM protests JEDI cloud deal

    As the deadline to submit bids on the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year warfighter cloud deal draws near, IBM announced a legal protest.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.