Obama CTO may lack policy authority
The news that one potential chief technology officer has turned down the
offer because it is reportedly not a policy-making position
changes the equation that many observers had applied to the role.
Norm Lorentz, who was the first chief technology officer at the
Office of Management and Budget early in the Bush administration, said
the CTO position must be able to set policy and have the budget
authority to enact those policies. Otherwise, the person who fills it will lack
the needed tools to exert real influence.
has to be a policy position,” said Lorentz, vice president at the
Council for Excellence in Government. If this role does not have the
policy-making authority, the CTO is “just a toothless tiger,” he
The CTO must also have a direct connection to the
president, especially in areas for which he wishes to produce
transformational results, Lorentz said.
According to published
reports, President-elect Barack Obama had offered the job to Julius
Genachowski, his top technology adviser, who turned it down because of
the lack of policy-setting authority. Obama will probably offer
Genachowski the chairmanship of the Federal Communications Commission
instead, according to reports.
The Washington Post published one detailed report, citing unnamed sources close to the transition team.
has said that the CTO would make sure that federal networks
are secure, lead an interagency effort to implement the best-in-class
technologies and share best practices. Obama’s selection has been a hot
topic of speculation for weeks.
Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.