Worried about looking 'ignorant,' Team Sebelius seeks media help

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Obamacare,Kathleen Sebelius,Media,Healthcare.gov,HHS

Concerned that senior leaders, including Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “can be left ignorant and unaware” of what Congress and the public are saying about them and their policies, officials at the agency in charge of Obamacare are seeking help to track everything the media is writing about the Department of Health and Human Services.

The sprawling department that is supported by a large communications shop is collecting the names of private companies that can produce a customized daily digest of news better and more complete than the one HHS aides currently compile.

The reason, according to HHS, is that there is too much media to monitor and the department’s public affairs office is having trouble meeting deadlines and producing readable summaries. What’s more, like with the website issues plaguing Obamacare, the internal staff has had difficulty getting their news summaries to work on mobile devices.

“While the secretary, the agency heads, and senior leaders across the department are critical customers, it is important to the department in general that staff at all levels in all agencies be aware of how the department and its agencies are being cast in the public eye. All HHS staff essentially are ‘ambassadors to the public on the department's behalf,” said a department notice.

“Without this knowledge, HHS leaders can be left ignorant and unaware of what the public, Congress and stakeholders may be saying and reacting to, thus leaving HHS officials less than fully informed in their decision making processes,” added the department.

Interested small businesses have until Dec. 23 to tell HHS if they can handle the job. After that, HHS will determine if it wants to move ahead with farming the job out.

But it sounds like that will be the next step, if the presolicitation notice issued earlier this month is any indication.

“Department and agency leadership in particular, along with agency staff, need to have early in the morning complete situational awareness of what the media is reporting about the organization and its programs and initiatives. Agency officials will be able to make better decisions if they have an easier, faster, more reliable way to get all the latest information about their organization and its mission. Providing HHS officials with timely, easy-to-digest information on a daily basis keeps them in the best position to react to fast-moving events and unfolding issues of concern to the department,” said HHS notice.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.