White House: Where is the CTO?


On his second day in office, President Barack Obama issued a sweeping memorandum on transparency in government, setting out an ambitious to-do list for the newly created position of Chief Technology Officer (CTO). This person was to be responsible initially — along with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services Administration — to come up with a concrete list of recommendations to implement the principles set out in the memorandum, namely, that government should be transparent, participatory, and collaborative, and to do it within 120 days.

We’re now at day 21 and counting , and the Obama Administration has yet to appoint that CTO — a position he promised to create during his campaign.

So I’m worried: the clock is ticking to prepare that critically important memo. And besides the ticking clock there have been several examples of the White HouseĀ  falling down on its promises to be transparent, particularly complying with its promise to post all legislation online for 5 days before consideration. (The history of posting bills online to allow for public comment has been either non-existent or spotty to date.) Getting that CTO “online” seems more and more important every day. To walk the walk, Obama needs the CTO.

So what’s going on? Inquiring minds want to know.

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  • John Milligan

    Actually this CTO position is better situated at OMB and under the Director of E-Gov there. Vivek Kundra was appointed as that person recently. He comes from a Google background (was DC’s CTO), so we may be seeing a Google-ization of Government with his appointment. (Might be good or might not) A CTO at the White House would have nil power beyond idle bloviating. At OMB maybe he can get the resources finally to effectively implement the e-Gov Act and connect that Act’s current vast ends-means disconnects.

  • Mike

    And what about Mr. Obama taking the weekend off – to holiday with his family back in Corrupt Chi-town? If it was such an world-wide emergency – which could not even wait 48 or 72 hours for the public to see the bill- then why is he waiting until Tuesday to sign the bill?

  • Mike

    Anyone remotely familiar with the Internet could have posted the 1,072 page stimulus bill on a website. In fact, Mr. Obama could have taken an hour off (how bout when he was “out” with his wife on Valentine’s eve?) and posted this bill for all citizens to see. Absolutely no excuse. I question the integrity of our President and our Congress (regardless of party affiliation).

  • Tommy

    As long as it is not the guy from DC. I bet they realized what a joke that would be and are looking at option 2.

  • As I understand it, the position isn’t going to be filled as they originally expected the CTO to report directly to the President but now they want that person to be head of OMB.

    Vivek Kundra who was reportedly in the running to become CTO is now reported to be head of OMB (http://gcn.com/articles/2009/02/10/kundra-as-omb-it-administrator.aspx) …

    Maybe I’m just completely confused now.

  • I think the Obama team is still negociating with Eric Schmidt at Google to get Google to actually be the Chief Technology Company for America. I think Google engineers need to be hired by the Government so that they can fix all the problems.

    Julio in Florida hates Mcdonalds and wants another job, a computer system can manage people getting other job opportunities. Perhaps varying between different crappy jobs is better than working 4 and a half years on the same crappy job.

    The homeless lady in the Florida townhall can get a place to stay using a computer system. Only using a computer and Internet system can you manage where everyone can find an affordable place to stay.

    Global Warming is fixed using computers. The Global Economic crisis is fixed using computers.

    The CTO job should not just be about installing new computers in the White House and updating of whitehouse.gov

    This job has to mean MUCH more, Obama needs to hire Google to do the Job. Hey if a few talented engineers from other silicon valley companies want to contribute then why not.

    The stimulus plan needs to dedicate hundreds of billions in using IT to solve all problems.

    Obama just has to ask it, I am sure Larry and Sergei will say yes.

    Obama can just order those Government IT tasks be open source and open in the way people at all kinds of companies will be involved in making those technological solutions work.

  • Mike

    Is anyone honestly surprised?

    Obama will continue to wow everyone with inspiring ideas, but at the end of the day what did you guys really expect?

  • Jerry

    James: The problem is that basically every other major position in the Obama administration has been appointed. The CTO is the one empty spot on the list of big players – and one has to wonder why this is.

    I’m not calling shenanigans just yet, but clearly there are stumbling blocks of some sort preventing the going-ahead of the CTO position, and this is worrisome at least.

  • joe

    Well, James clearly needs a lesson in comment diplomacy.

    As for me, I wouldn’t say I’m worried, specifically. I definitely want to know what’s going on and I suspect we know the answer (the economy). I definitely think now is a good time to ask the “what’s up?” question as Ellen has done here. The CRS report that Paul pointed to a while back has a ton of other questions that I bet they’re trying to answer (among others) or have spent these 20 days answering.

  • James

    No offence, but you need to calm down. You come off sounding like a child asking “Mommy, are we there yet”. It’s been 21 days. Give the guy a break! Like he doesn’t have more important things to worry about right now, like maybe a crumbling economy, and an obstructionist GOP trying to block every move he makes.

    After 21 days, President Obama has probably been more transparent and open than George Bush was in his entire 8 years in office.

  • How many bills have been signed into law since Jan 20?

    The Obama Administration has posted one important bill for comments — see