Obama’s CTO: Some assembly required

Experts describe their vision of the government’s top technologist

President-elect Barack Obama sparked a wave of speculation after he announced his intention to create a new federal chief technology officer as part of his administration. President George W. Bush created a similar office, but after his first CTO, Norm Lorentz, stepped down, it withered.

Obama has an opportunity to remake the position. Tongues have been wagging predictably about whom Obama might choose — would it be a celebrity such as Bill Gates or a seasoned fed such as Alan Balutis? — but also about what the person’s role should be.

The CTO will oversee technology policy and use in the government, but what does that definition mean in practice? What kind of person should be in the position, and how should the federal CTO relate to agency officials? The role offers a unique opportunity to effect real change in the government’s use of technology. Will that potential be realized?

We picked three experienced leaders — Lorentz, former Environmental Protection Agency Chief Information Officer Kim Nelson and former Treasury CIO Jim Flyzik — to discuss the office and its role in the future. We also offer a sampling of what is being written about the CTO in the mainstream media and the blogosphere.

What do you think? Send your reactions or ideas to letters@fcw.com.

About the Author

John S. Monroe is the editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week.

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