On a Friday, it's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

So far, any effort to fix the government's flawed health insurance website has been overshadowed by finger-pointing. The contractors behind the testified on Capitol Hill yesterday. They are blaming each other.

Here's NPR's Elise Hu.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: High traffic volume was the first excuse for's persistent problems.

REP. ANNA ESHOO: I think that's really kind of a lame excuse.

HU: That's Representative Anna Eshoo, a Democrat whose district includes Silicon Valley. She's part of the House panel demanding answers from contractors who built the beleaguered tech system.

ESHOO: This is the 21st century. It's 2013. There are thousands of websites that handle concurrent volumes far larger than what was faced with.

HU: What's emerged since the October 1st rollout of is that more than just high volume broke the system. A badly built system broke the system. It was pulled together from several discrete parts, each part built by different contractors. That made it easy for each of them to say it wasn't me.

Here's Cheryl Campbell from the biggest contractor, CGI Federal.


CHERYL CAMPBELL: So we never been the systems integrator, and we are not the systems integrator.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So who's in charge as systems integrator?

CAMPBELL: CMS is responsible for end-to-end.

HU: End-to-end systems oversight and testing did fall to CMS, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services. The fully integrated system didn't get tested until two weeks before launch. And high level, in-house technical expertise is something many federal agencies just don't have.

MICHAEL SLABY: Figuring out who's responsible for what is always hard. And integration is always hard.

HU: That's Michael Slaby, the chief tech officer over President Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

SLABY: When you have five or six different people working on each optimizing their part of the process, it's easy to sort of pass a performance problem around in a sort of an infinite loop.

HU: The testimony from contractors wound up sounding much like a blame loop, except for when they pointed to their client, CMS. That agency is under Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She will face the same House panel next week.

Elise Hu, NPR News, Washington.

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