Todd Park, the second-ever federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO), is leaving his position. While he has been CTO since 2012, he has been part of the Administration since 2009, when he joined the Department of Health and Human Services as its CTO.
While the President will need to find a new CTO, Park will continue to work for the Administration. Once he returns to California, he will serve as a technology adviser to the President. To my knowledge, having a presidential appointee based outside of Washington is rare, if not unique. But in Park’s case, it makes a lot of sense.
His main focus on the West Coast is to recruit technology-savvy people for work in Washington. Personnel has been an interest of Park’s; he was instrumental in developing the Presidential Innovation Fellows, a program where technologically savvy professionals would serve short stints in federal agencies. Those fellows were part of the technology overhaul of the health care website, and helped staff the General Services Adminstration technology team, called 18F. They, and others who have worked with Park may well play a part in the newly formed U.S. Digital Service housed in the Office of Management and Budget.
Given how low on the priority list science and technology appointments are now in this Administration, I do not expect Park’s successor to be announced quickly. (If a successor has been identified from within Park’s current staff, I may be proven wrong.) And there is still the matter of an Associate Director for Technology and Innovation at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Aneesh Chopra, Park’s predecessor, served as both Chief Technology Officer and Associate Director for Technology in OSTP. When Chopra left, the Administration never did fill that second post. Tom Kalil, OSTP Deputy Director for Policy and Innovation, has effectively served as Acting Associate Director. The Associate Director spot requires Senate confirmation. However, the Senate struggles to pass much of anything, particularly in a timely fashion. The Administration may be punting on this vacancy to avoid sinking time and effort that may be longer than the time any successfully confirmed person may have in the post.
Good luck to Park in his future recruiting efforts, and to whomever succeeds him as Chief Technology Officer.