I've already written a bit about Obama's high level focus and Dr. Peter Orszag's confirmation hearing as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). However, I didn't want a few other points to slip through the cracks while everyone is focused on the economic stimulus legislation. Of the three positions/panels I'd like to evaluate, only the Federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO) remains vacant. Obviously there are still nominations and hearings to take place before the entire administration is confirmed and in place. However, over the past week, we have witnessed the hearing for Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) with General Eric Shinseki and the creation of Obama's Technology, Innovation and Government Reform (TIGR) Team which will shed some light on the role of technology and information technology (IT) in the new administration. I'll try to use this information to inform a few comments about the federal CTO as well.
Shinseki to Modernize VA
The fact that a retired Army general will be heading VA is already making active and retired military personnel happy. As for the IT industry, the Secretary's two main goals are update VA's information technology network and move toward an electronic records system. He understands and respects veterans and their needs as well as his desire to create a proactive, "21st century organization." Since we know he'll have the support of the Obama administration when it comes to technology, e-records and efficiency implementation, it is likely that we can expect Shinseki to have a quick and significant impact in the department.
Technology, Innovation and Government Reform (TIGR) Team
The new TIGR team has two main focuses early on: innovation and transparency. The team's goal in innovation seems to be two-fold. Combine members with both public and private sector backgrounds to evaluate new ideas and technologies while allowing government programs to place effectiveness and efficiency above all else. The TIGR team also launched the "Citizens' Briefing Book" in an effort to allow citizens to submit proposals regarding government policies, programs, etc. According to GovTech, the TIGR team wants to improve who the new administration accepts and implements IT but also support innovations as they come along – mash-ups and cloud computing – to name a few. Lastly, an interesting note. One of the potential candidates for the Federal CTO position, Washington, DC CTO Vivek Kundra, is one of the members of Obama's TIGR team. It will be interesting to see if by early February he has double duty as the nation's first CTO.
The Federal CTO
The rumors and murmurs continued this week regarding Obama's choice for CTO. I think it's obvious that the economic climate and stimulus package have trumped many pieces of the President's early agenda. However, we are anticipating this nomination to be made public and at that point, we will have analysis regarding the impact to policy, budget and the technology community. In the meantime, the Obama administration has shown no signs of shying away from topics such as Health IT, technology implementation and innovative solutions. Whether this individual is from the public sector or a private company, it is unlikely they will be a technology newbie. On the other hand, many agree it's also unlikely this person will have much budget authority. Marcus Fedeli, Business Architect at NASA (and my former colleague here at GovWin), wrote on MeriTalk.com, "The notion that the new CTO will be a budget-controlling, tech-savvy administrator of technology across all agencies is unrealistic." He says, and I agree, this will be a much more collaborative position which is meant to pass technology and best practices between the agencies, work with the CIOs across the board and advise the administration on implementation costs and timeframes. As the CTO is announced and confirmed, technology and IT will be a part of almost every strategy across the federal agencies. So the new CTO will be able to be involved in things like the economic stimulus implementation, energy innovation, and Health IT before they even begin to look at Obama's agenda for the position (wireless/broadband priorities, open internet, IT security). The agenda is certainly big enough, so hopefully this delay in naming a CTO will allow the right person to be chosen with the correct level of impact and authority to help promote technology solutions across all federal agencies.