New Chief Technology Officer Appointed; Relationship With OSTP Still Murky

Earlier today President Obama appointed Todd Park as the new federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO), replacing Aneesh Chopra, who left in early February.  Park has worked at the Department of Health and Human Services since 2009, where he most recently served as its CTO.  Like Mr. Chopra (and chief science adviser John Holdren), Park will hold the title of Assistant to the President.

Before entering federal service, Park co-founded the health care technology company Athenahealth.  He and his partner were motivated to form the company in 1997 due to a lack of computing solutions to help manage the health care practice they were running.  The company posted revenues in 2011 of over $324 million.  Health care has also been an issue of importance to Park’s predecessor, who worked at a health care consultancy and focused on health care delivery while serving as Virginia’s CTO.  How much Park will focus on the open government and open data issues that Chopra did remains to be seen (though it’s possible the Chief Information Officer may take on more of those responsibilities).

Unlike his predecessor, Park will not also serve as associate director for technology in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  Perhaps to address a reasonable follow-up question, the official announcement and blog post on the appointment note that the CTO’s office is part of OSTP.  What I thought in February still holds true

“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.”

This part of the official announcement suggests that OSTP will try:

“where Mr. Park will work closely with U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Telecommunications Tom Power. OSTP Director and Presidential science advisor John P. Holdren announced today that Power will perform the duties of OSTP’s Associate Director for Technology—a position previously held by Chopra in conjunction with his role as U.S. CTO—while a search is conducted for a permanent replacement.”

While better integrating the government’s technology boosting capacity with its technology using capacity now requires a commitment of three people (Holdren, Park and whomever eventually replaces Power), the effort at a smooth-ish transition  leaves me optimistic.