A Failure in Leadership: Launch of Obamacare

Posted on October 23, 2013 by

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One of the most damaging accusations against Mr. Obama in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act came from his chief Lieutenant for healthcare, Kathleen Sebelius, as she tried to defend him:

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked when the President first learned about the considerable issues with the Obamacare website. Sebelius responded that it was in “the first couple of days” after the site went live October 1.

“But not before that?” Gupta followed up.  To which Sebelius replied, “No, sir.”

You see, it’s not Mr. Obama’s fault; he was never informed about the problems until the rest of us learned.  This is something we’ve heard before–you may remember his previous claim of learning about the IRS scandal by reading it in the newspaper.

Let’s take Ms. Sebelius at her word.  Everyone on the planet recognizes that Mr. Obama’s singular achievement of his presidency thus far, and likely his legacy, is the Affordable Care Act.  How could he not know?  It seems like there are only three possible options (if I’m missing something, put in the comments please):

  1. As a good executive, he had extensive reviews on the progress of the program that bears his name, but he was lied to–thus he didn’t know
  2. As a good executive, he had extensive reviews on the progress of the program that bears his name, and he was aware of the potential issues, and Mrs. Sebelius is lying.
  3. He didn’t exercise good oversight of the program; he accepted platitudes from sycophants and thought it would all work out, and is as disappointed as the rest of us that it doesn’t work

Ms. Sebelius is not telling us the president was lied to, nor is she admitting that she is lying.  That leaves option #3, which I consider a signal failure in leadership.  As a former Air Force Commander, I also was involved in launching new programs–literally.  During my service in the Air Force, I was involved in numerous launches, including ones where the success or failure would impact careers and were crucially important to the nation’s security.  You can watch the one I consider the most important below, the first intercept of an ICBM missile from an interceptor at Vandenberg AFB, where I served as the Air Force Launch Director leading the combined launch operations.

In each of these launches, there were painful, detailed reviews of every aspect of the program–no stone was left unturned.  Complacency leads to failure, and failure in launch is NOT an option.  These reviews went up through multiple three star generals, enroute to the four star commander of the Air Force Space Command (in addition to others, such as in this case, the head of the Missile Defense Agency–another 3 star general).  I can tell you, the commanding officers, from Lieutenant Colonels to four star generals, asked probing questions and demanded to see the data, and had outside counsel double checking every technical detail.  There is a reason why the USAF has successfully launched 87+ rockets without a failure.  Leadership doesn’t surround itself with “yes men” and leadership is engaged.  Leadership keeps a laser focus on the “big rocks” that are crucially important to mission success.  Something as important to Mr. Obama’s legacy and this country’s future as the Affordable Care Act should have been the biggest of big rocks.  We see this same detailed engagement with successful leadership in the Bible as well; Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem with his single minded focus on his mission (even refusing to stop and meet his enemies). If Ms. Sebelius is to be believed, I find it one of the most condemning comments of all.

PS:  for those not familiar with the “big rocks” concept, watch it here:

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Posted in: Obamacare