Earlier today it was announced that Aneesh Chopra, the first federal Chief Technology Officer, will be leaving his post. Chopra served in a similar capacity in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and The Washington Post is running with speculation that Chopra will run for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 2013. I have seen no official date of departure, but Politico is reporting that it will be February 8.
Chopra joined the Obama Administration in May 2009, and was one of three individuals (including the Chief Information Officer and Chief Performance Officer) starting in new government positions focused on improving the function and performance of government. The Chief Technology Officer position is not required by law, despite efforts to codify the position. All three who started in the new positions have either left government or moved to other positions within government.
The Chief Technology Officer is officially an “Assistant to the President” and Chopra also holds the position of Associate Director for Technology at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). (OSTP Director Holdren didn’t mention this in his post on Chopra’s departure.) I do not know if Chopra’s eventual successor will continue this relationship, as it seems that Chopra’s focus was more on the use of technology in the functions of governments rather than on the more traditional OSTP focus on supporting and encouraging the development of technology. The Technology Division at OSTP did have staff focused on digital and open government initiatives, but they have left.
Personally, I think the different missions of the Technology Division and the Chief Technology Officer could be held within OSTP, and encourage its Science and Technology Divisions to focus as much on function as the Environmental and Energy, and National Security and International Affairs Divisions. But that will take time, and a commitment from both Dr. Holdren and whomever succeeds Mr. Chopra to make it happen.