Who will be the next U.S. CIO?

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It took only one week for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to name a new federal CTO after Todd Park's departure from the post was announced.

Now the question is, will the administration be as swift to announce a replacement for former federal CIO Steve VanRoekel?

VanRoekel left the White House Sept. 19 for the U.S. Agency for International Development, where he is serving as chief innovation officer and helping to coordinate the administration's response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Lisa Schlosser, deputy associate administrator at the Office of E-Government and Information technology, is serving as interim CIO.

The last two appointments to OSTP and OMB have been former Googlers -- Megan Smith as U.S. CTO and Mikey Dickerson to head the U.S. Digital Services team out of OMB -- and the possibility exists of again dipping into the private sector to fill the CIO role.

Whether that happens might depend, at least in part, on how decision makers view the job, former U.S. CIO Mark Forman told FCW.

"The technologist who runs the infrastructure, gets the best new technology for government and keeps the lights running, versus the CIO who is a business transformation person who understands how technology relates to government and how performance can be improved through technology," said Forman, now vice president for IT Services and Cloud Initiatives at TASC Inc.

Knowledge of government policies and processes would be useful, he said. With more than two years left for the current administration, having the skills to navigate the policymaking process still has value.

"In government, so much emanates from the appropriations process, there's a very clear set of procedures for processes and it's a model that's unique to government," Forman said. "There would certainly be a learning curve for people who haven't worked in the government IT environment before."

Knowing the team that's already in place could also be important.

"The next CIO will work closely with OMB, agency, and White House leadership, including the new CTO, Megan Smith," an administration official said.

You need someone who has that extroverted bundle of energy.

One option would be to have Mikey Dickerson, administrator of the U.S. Digital Services team and deputy CIO since early August, elevated to the CIO role at OMB.

Other names have been thrown into the mix by people in the federal tech community, including Dave Powner, director of IT issues at the Government Accountability Office. In June, Clay Johnson, a former Presidential Innovation Fellow and CEO of Department of Better Technology, essentially endorsed Powner in a tweet saying, "Powner for Federal CIO."

In a Wall Street Journal article about Park's departure from OSTP, Johnson said, ""[I]t's time that we stopped giving these titles to abstract 'managers' and started doubling down on people that have a track record in shipping great software and know how to talk to developers like developers."

Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray has also been mentioned as a candidate.

Whoever is selected, Forman said, dedication to the task at hand will be critical.

"Energy is contagious in a government transformation initiative," Forman said. "You need someone who has that extroverted bundle of energy, with brilliant insight."

An appointment could come soon. The job is not subject to Senate confirmation, and, Forman said, it's a plum spot.

"Its one of the hardest jobs, but best jobs you can have in America," he said.

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a former staff writer for FCW.


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