Obama Apppoints US’s First Ever CTO

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First U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra faces a daunting challenge in coordinating and reforming the US federal government’s technology systems.

President Obama has named Aneesh Chopra as the nation’s first CTO. Chopra, currently serving as Virginia’s secretary of technology, follows the appointment of Vivek Kundra by Obama as the new administration’s CIO after serving as Virginia’s assistant secretary of commerce and technology and the District of Columbia’s CTO.

Obama also named Jeffrey Zients chief performance officer.

“Aneesh and Jeffrey 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 weekly radio address. “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 Company, 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.”

Technology trade groups and executives rushed to praise the Chopra appointment and to deflect criticism about the fact that Obama selected someone from outside the Silicon Valley to head the nation’s technology efforts.

Google’s Alan Davidson, the search giant’s senior policy counsel, said Chopra has been “relentless in applying technology to make government work better for citizens—from requiring state government agencies to make their sites more crawlable, to integrating iTunes with the state’s educational system.”

On the Google blog, Davidson added, “Some have said that the appointment should have gone to someone from Silicon Valley. We disagree. Chopra’s record of being unafraid to experiment and push government to better serve citizens bodes well for his performance in facing difficult challenges and great opportunities.”