Obama appoints federal CTO, industry applauds choice

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President Obama appointed the first-ever federal chief technology officer (CTO) during the weekend.  

Aneesh Chopra, Virginia's secretary of technology, will serve as the CTO, Obama announced Saturday morning at his weekly address, according to a White House news release.

“In this role, Aneesh will promote technological innovation to help achieve our most urgent priorities – from creating jobs and reducing health care costs to keeping our nation secure,” Obama said in his address.

The news comes on the heels of Obama's appointment of Vivek Kundra as the first-ever federal chief information officer. Kundra was the former CTO for the District of Columbia.

Obama said that in his new role as federal CTO, Chopra will work closely with Kundra, whose responsibilities include ensuring information security and privacy across the federal government, overseeing federal technology spending, directing policy, planning for federal IT investments and overseeing government enterprise architecture.

Chopra previously worked as managing director with the consultancy Advisory Board Company, where he lead the firm's Financial Leadership Council and the Working Council for Health Plan Executives, the White House news release said.

Observers in the industry have praised Obama's CTO pick.  

Robert Holleyman, CEO and president of the Business Software Alliance, told SCMagazineUS.com in a news release emailed to SCMagazineUS.com that he applauds President Obama's choice and said that he is encouraged by the “visionary” role that the President has planned for the CTO.

“He will be a member of the President's senior economic policy team; will play a leading role in putting IT to work for the American people; and will serve as an ‘evangelist' for policies to spur innovation and economic growth,” Holleyman said.

Phil Bond, president of technology advocacy organization, TechAmerica told SCMagazineUS.com in an emailed news release that Chopra is well-known in the industry and this move is a “breakthrough for technology policy.”

"Aneesh Chopra is a fantastic pick; he is a visionary and a great communicator. If I was looking for one person to bring change, and create energy he's the pick," Mark Rutledge, director at McAfee's public sector business and former CIO for the state of Kentucky told SCMagazineUS.com in an email.

Mandeep Khera, CMO for web application security vendor Cenzic told SCMagazineUS.com in an email that Chopra seems to have the right background for this position. He added that Chopra has done a lot of innovation for the state of Virginia, uses technology as an enabler and favors processes before technology.

“One concern would be that he doesn't seem to have a lot of initiatives on cybersecurity, at least that's publicly visible,” Khera said. “Since cybersecurity is one of the top priorities, we hope that Aneesh's wealth of IT knowledge can be aligned with the cybersecurity priorities."
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