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White House tech team to improve government websites after HealthCare.gov rollout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House launched a new team on Monday to improve government websites and upgrade U.S. technology infrastructure in an effort to prevent a repeat of the problems with last October’s botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act website.

The move comes as Republicans seek to drum up opposition to President Obama's signature healthcare reform law as a campaign talking point for the upcoming congressional elections, partly by emphasizing HealthCare.gov’s nightmarish initial launch on Oct. 1.

The team of about seven to 10 private-sector technology experts branded the “U.S. Digital Service” will include Mikey Dickerson, a former Google website manager and member of the White House-assembled team assigned last year to repairing the federal healthcare site before its December relaunch.

Dickerson also worked on election monitoring services and on targeting television ads to party preferences for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

The new team, which has requested $20 million in next fiscal year’s appropriations and hopes to expand eventually to about 25 members, seeks to apply the same kind of private-sector technological expertise that helped save the healthcare website to help fix problems and improve the accessibility of other federal websites, such as recreation.gov and irs.gov.

The team also plans to include federal workers on a rotating basis, who have knowledge of the government’s unique “myriad of regulations and laws” that make technology difficult to navigate, said Steven VanRoekel, the U.S. federal chief information officer.

(Reporting by Annika McGinnis; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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