Jeffrey Zients

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Jeffrey Zients
Jeffrey Zients official portrait.jpg
Director of the National Economic Council
Incumbent
Assumed office
March 5, 2014
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Gene Sperling
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Acting
In office
January 27, 2012 – April 24, 2013
President Barack Obama
Deputy Heather Higginbottom
Preceded by Jack Lew
Succeeded by Sylvia Mathews Burwell
In office
July 30, 2010 – November 18, 2010
President Barack Obama
Deputy Jeffrey Liebman (Acting)
Preceded by Peter Orszag
Succeeded by Jack Lew
Chief Performance Officer of the United States
In office
June 19, 2009 – October 16, 2013
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Beth Cobert
Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget
In office
June 19, 2009 – October 16, 2013
Director Peter Orszag
Jacob Lew
Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Preceded by Clay Johnson
Succeeded by Beth Cobert
Personal details
Born (1966-11-12) November 12, 1966 (age 47)
Kensington, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Menell
Children Sasha
Matt
Josh
Jonny
Alma mater Duke University
Religion Judaism

Jeffrey "Jeff" D. Zients (born November 12, 1966) is an American chief executive officer, management consultant and entrepreneur. Since late February 2014, he has served as Director of the United States National Economic Council and President Obama's Economic Advisor. Zients has served as the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, a position he held until April 24, 2013. On September 13, 2013, it was announced that Zients would replace Gene Sperling as Director of the National Economic Council.[1]

Zients' assumption of the role of Director of the National Economic Council was delayed by his acceptance of an assignment from President Barack Obama to fix the problems of HealthCare.gov. Zients is widely credited with salvaging HealthCare.gov, and has come to be referred to as "Mr. Fix-It" within the Obama Administration.[2][3]

Early years[edit]

Zients was raised in a Jewish family[4] and is a native of Kensington, Maryland,[5] and lives in the Washington, D.C. area.[6] He graduated in 1984 from St. Albans School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree, summa cum laude[7] from Duke University. Zients worked in management consulting for Mercer Management Consulting and Bain & Company until his appointment as chief operating officer of DGB Enterprises, a holding company for the Advisory Board Company, Corporate Executive Board and Atlantic Media Company.[7]

Zients was the chairman (2001–2004), chief executive officer (1998–2000), and chief operating officer (1996–1998) of the Advisory Board Company and former chairman (2000–2001) of the Corporate Executive Board.[8] Both companies were founded by David G. Bradley and provide research and advice to corporations around the globe on best practices in management, strategy and operations. Zients and Bradley took each of the companies public through successful initial public offerings that made both men multimillionaires.[6][9] At age 35, Zients was named to Fortune Magazine's "40 under 40" with an estimated wealth of $149 million.[10]

Zients also cofounded the Urban Alliance Foundation.

Zients founded[11] and was the managing partner of privately held Portfolio Logic LLC, an investment firm primarily focused on business services companies,[12] that included Best Practices (Emergency Services management), Timbuk2 Designs (a retailer of backpacks, apparel and messenger bags) and Pediatrics Services of America. He was a member of the board of directors of XM Satellite Radio until its 2008 merger, and[8][13] a board member at Sirius XM Radio until his Senate confirmation.[14][15] Zients had also served on the boards of Revolution Health Group, Best Practices and Timbuk2 Designs.[9][11][13][16]

Baseball[edit]

In 2005, he worked to bring Major League Baseball back to Washington with venture capitalist Fred Malek forming the Washington Baseball Club, one of eight[17] or nine groups vying to buy the Washington Nationals.[18] The club included Colin Powell, AOL founding CEO James Kinsey, attorney Vernon Jordan, Darrell Green formerly of the Washington Redskins, Fannie Mae chairman Franklin Raines[5][18] and others.[5] Malek was going to be the managing partner for the first three years when Zients would take over.[17] They came close to owning the team[17] but lost to another group led by the Lerner family.[8]

Office of Management and Budget[edit]

Jeffrey Zients speaking at White House press briefing on a possible government shutdown (2011)

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed him to the new position of United States Chief Performance Officer and Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget in the federal government of the United States.[19] According to Obama, his assignment was to help “streamline processes, cut costs, and find best practices throughout" the U.S. government.[19] Zients replaced Nancy Killefer who withdrew from her nomination to this position in February 2009 to avoid controversy about her personal income taxes.[20] His nomination was approved by the full Senate after a hearing on June 10, 2009, by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who voted unanimously to approve him.[21][22]

As the Chief Performance Officer, Zients led the Obama Administration's "Accountable Government Initiative". Zients outlined the Initiative in a memo to the government's Senior Executive Service in the fall of 2010.[23] One primary area of focus was to reform how the government buys and manages information technology. To bring outside expertise into government, Zients organized a Forum on Modernizing Government at the White House in January 2010 that brought 50 private sector CEOs together with senior government managers and CIOs to discuss best practices in large-scale IT project management.[24] This session informed subsequent actions, including ordering a halt on all major government financial system projects until a review was completed to eliminate long-standing problems, reduce costs and accelerate the delivery of functionality to end users.[25] In November 2010, Zients announced an execution plan for overcoming the long-standing structural challenges that plague government IT.[26]

In his role as DDM, Zients established and chaired the President’s Management Council [27] and oversaw the "Management" side of the Office of Management and Budget.

Zients served as the Acting Director of OMB from July 2010 to November 2010 and again from January 2012 to April 2013. He led the Administration's preparations for dealing with the "fiscal cliff" in 2012, and "oversaw the administration's budget content and message, which are central to the president's argument that he has a balanced plan for the economy while Republicans would rip the country's social fabric and undermine the education and infrastructure needed to succeed economically....[Zients] is Obama's ambassador liaison with the CEOs on the President's Jobs Council. One CEO thought he was a Republican. Others have said they want him to run their companies one day."[14]

Healthcare.gov[edit]

Following the error-plagued launch of healthcare.gov on October 1, 2013, Zients was recruited by President Obama and his Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to lead a "tech surge" to fix the website. McDonough referred to Zients as a “force multiplier” who [delivers] what he promises. He said the president had given Mr. Zients the same instructions he had given White House staff: “Get this fixed.”[28]

On October 25, Zients promised, in a conference call to the media, that the site would be working well "for the vast majority of users" by the end of November.

Zients worked with Silicon Valley experts, and Obama Chief Technology Officer Todd Park to create an ad hoc technology "dream team" of trouble-shooters and coders. Zients overhauled the project's management structure by insisting that one contractor by appointed the "general contractor" or systems integrator with clear accountability for managing the needed fixes. HHS appointed Quality Software Services, Inc (QSSI) to that role. Zients accelerated the pace of the website fixes, established clear metrics for tracking website performance (which he reported out publicly on weekly press calls), prioritized a "punch list" of bugs and enhancements, and instituted morning and evening “stand up meetings" to work through emerging issues in real-time.[29]

On December 1, 2013, HHS released a report on the site's performance improvements, and held a press call to announce that the team had met Zients' goal, with Zients reporting: "The bottom line is that HealthCare.gov is night and day from where it was on Oct. 1."

During the press call, Zients listed some of the root causes of the site’s earlier failure, such as the "unacceptable user experience, very slow response time, inexplicable user error messages and frequent website crashes and system outages." Root causes of the problems, he said, included hundreds of software bugs, inadequate hardware infrastructure and a general lack of system monitoring. Zients identified weaknesses in how the site was being managed, and he also cited slow decision-making among the root causes of the site’s troubles. “HealthCare.gov was fixable," Zients said. "We needed to get the team working with the speed and urgency of a high-performing private sector tech company."[30]

Personal life[edit]

While working at Bain, Zients reported to South African Mary Menell; they later were married in South Africa with Menell’s parents’ family friend Nelson Mandela in attendance.[31] They have four children Sasha, Matt, Josh and Jonny.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Obama Picks Zients as Director of Economic Council". Bloomberg. Retrieved September 14, 2013. 
  2. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/25/obama-appoints-jeffrey-zients-healthcare
  3. ^ Eilperin, Juliette. "Jeff Zients helped salvage HealthCare.gov. Now he’ll be Obama’s go-to guy on economy.". Washington Post. Washington Post. Retrieved 05/04/2014. 
  4. ^ The Jewish Daily Forward: "Meet the Four Jews Shaping the U.S. Economy" By Nathan Guttman February 28, 2013
  5. ^ a b c Shin, Annys (October 4, 2004). "Zients Is at the Top of His Game". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  6. ^ a b O'Keefe, Ed. "Who Are Jeffrey Zients and Aneesh Chopra?". The Washington Post (Tribune Company). Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  7. ^ a b "Advisory Board Co. 10-K". U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. June 27, 2003. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  8. ^ a b c "Obama names Chopra, Zients to top posts". Washington Business Journal (Advance Publications). April 17, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  9. ^ a b O'Hara, Terence (August 31, 2007). "There's More Than Baseball in Jeffrey Zients's Days". The Washington Post (Tribune Company). Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  10. ^ Boorstin, Julia; Freedman, Jonah; Florian, Ellen; Krady, Scott; Levinstein, Joan; Miller, Matthew; Vazquez, Dana (June 2002). "America's 40 Richest Under 40". CNN. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  11. ^ a b Nichols, Hans (April 20, 2009). "Obama Names Performance Officer, Vows to Trim Federal Spending". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  12. ^ "Portfolio Logic Management LLC". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 2009-94-19. 
  13. ^ a b "Jeffrey D. Zients". Condé Nast Portfolio. Retrieved 2009-04-19. [dead link]
  14. ^ a b Langley, Monica (July 13, 2012). "The Businessman Behind the Obama Budget" Wall Street Journal.
  15. ^ "Zients Resigns from Sirius XM Board". Radio Ink (MediaSpan). June 23, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  16. ^ "Jeffrey D. Zients Profile". Forbes. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  17. ^ a b c Heath, Thomas (April 29, 2009). "Malek, Zients Are Big Hitters in an All-Star Ownership Lineup". The Washington Post (Tribune Company). Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  18. ^ a b "Powell Joins Group Bidding On D.C. Baseball Team". Jet 107 (24) (Johnson Publishing). June 13, 2005. p. 50. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  19. ^ a b Barack Obama (April 18, 2009). Weekly Address: Efficiency and Innovation. Event occurs at 3:56.  and Obama, Barack (April 18, 2009). "(Transcript) Weekly Address: Efficiency and Innovation". The White House (whitehouse.gov). Retrieved 2009-04-19. [dead link]
  20. ^ Lunney, Kellie (April 20, 2009). "Obama Names Zients As CPO". National Journal Group. Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  21. ^ Brodsky, Robert (June 22, 2009). "Zients confirmed as OMB's deputy director of management". GovExec.com (National Journal Group). Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  22. ^ Meckler, Laura (April 20, 2009). "Administration Seeks to Target Wasteful Spending". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  23. ^ "Presidential Memorandum-Accountable Government Initiative | The White House". Whitehouse.gov. 2010-09-14. Retrieved 2013-01-14. 
  24. ^ "President Obama Welcomes CEOs to White House Forum on Modernizing Government | The White House". Whitehouse.gov. 2010-01-14. Retrieved 2013-01-14. 
  25. ^ http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-06-28/obama-puts-3-billion-in-technology-deals-on-hold.html
  26. ^ Lipowicz, Alice (2010-11-19). "Zients outlines five strategies for improving IT management". FCW. Retrieved 2013-01-14. 
  27. ^ By KATHERINE REYNOLDS LEWIS, The Fiscal Times (2010-06-14). "OMB’s Zients Cuts Through the Red Tape". Thefiscaltimes.com. Retrieved 2013-01-14. 
  28. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/11/us/health-website-tests-a-tycoon-and-tinkerer.html?_r=0
  29. ^ http://time.com/10228/obamas-trauma-team/
  30. ^ http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/healthcaregov-night-day
  31. ^ Conservative Daily News: "Obama’s OMB Director Came From Bain Capital By Warren Beatty July 17, 2012
  32. ^ "Play Ball! Washington Baseball Club Celebrates Return of Baseball to Our Hometown" (Press release). Washington Baseball Club via Zoom Information. September 29, 2004. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Orszag
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Acting

2010
Succeeded by
Jack Lew
Preceded by
Jack Lew
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Acting

2012–2013
Succeeded by
Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Preceded by
Gene Sperling
Director of the National Economic Council
2014–present
Incumbent