Obama CTO Nominee Chopra Faces Confirmation Hearing

By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2009-05-18

Aneesh Chopra, President Obama's nominee to be the nation's first chief technology officer, is scheduled for a May 19 confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation. Obama nominated Chopra April 18 to fill the still vaguely defined position.

The hearing comes just two days before a White House-mandated May 21 deadline for the still unconfirmed CTO to issue guidelines on how to create a more transparent, collaborative and participatory government. Based on the CTO's recommendation, the White House plans to issue open government directives to federal agencies.

The May 21 deadline, though, appears to be a floating target. Chopra, confirmed or not, is expected to issue some sort of recommendations. But the White House has also promised to seek public input on the open government initiative, and that has yet to happen.

If confirmed, Chopra will be an assistant to the president and will hold the formal title of associate director for technology at the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. According to the White House, Chopra's duties will involve developing "national strategies for using advanced technologies to transform our economy and our society, such as fostering private sector innovation, reducing administrative costs and medical errors using health IT, and using technology to change the way teachers teach and students learn."

The new CTO position is also expected complement the efforts of Vivek Kundra, who was appointed March 5 the administration's chief information officer. Kundra is expected to focus on government technology operations, while the CTO will direct his efforts toward policy issues.

Chopra, currently serving as Virginia's secretary of technology, is old friends with Kundra, who previously served as Virginia's assistant secretary of commerce and technology and the District of Columbia's CTO.

"Aneesh ... will work closely with our chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, who is responsible for setting technology policy across the government, and using technology to improve security, ensure transparency and lower costs," Obama said in his April 18 weekly radio address announcing Chopra's appointment. "The goal is to give all Americans a voice in their government and ensure that they know exactly how we're spending their money-and can hold us accountable for the results."

Prior to serving in the Virginia government, Chopra worked as a managing director with the Advisory Board Co., taking the lead role on financial and health care issues. As the nation's CTO, Chopra's role is still undefined, but the government's technological systems are currently largely uncoordinated.

Obama said Chopra's job will not be easy.

"Big change never is. But with the leadership of these individuals, I am confident that we can break our bad habits, put an end to the mismanagement that has plagued our government and start living within our means again," Obama said. "That is how we will get our deficits under control and move from recovery to prosperity. And that is how we will give the American people the kind of government they expect and deserve-one that is efficient, accountable and fully worthy of their trust."

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