The Guy Who Rescued Obamacare’s Website Has A New Project: The VA

Jennifer Bendery | Huffington Post | May 17, 2016

It was October 2013 when the Obama administration triumphantly flipped the switch on, the landing page for the White House’s landmark domestic policy achievement. It promptly crashed. As administration officials absorbed the extent of the catastrophe, they realized they had to go outside the usual government channels to get the site up and running. That’s when they brought in Paul Smith, a politically minded coder with a handful of successful startups behind him.

Paul Smith

Smith immediately asked to see the results of the monitoring tools identifying where the system was clogged. He was met with blank stares from the bureaucrats in the room. So he downloaded a cheap tool from the Internet and — breaking probably every government tech regulation in the book — plugged it into the system to see what he was working with. The entire screen lit up bright red with errors, matching the color of the faces of millions of people trying to log on to buy affordable health care insurance, as well as the faces of health policy wonks wondering if Obamacare itself had just crashed and burned.

Smith and his team of outside coders ultimately turned around, in a rescue that has become a case study in rapid tech recovery. The group was thrown together so quickly that they were known only as the Ad Hoc team. Today, Ad Hoc LLC — they went ahead and made it their company name — has a new job that, in some ways, makes the Affordable Care Act turnaround look easy. They’re taking on the Department of Veterans Affairs. Smith’s team won a contract this month to develop, a new website that consolidates the department’s services in one online location...