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Technology Transformation Service gets a new leader

TTS Commissioner Rob Cook

Former Pixar executive Rob Cook will take over leadership of the Technology Transformation Service, the General Services Administration announced on Oct. 27. Cook starts his new job leading the tech innovation hub on Oct. 31.

Cook succeeds Phaedra Chrousos, who left GSA soon after standing up TTS The new service was formed in May by combining GSA's 18F innovation shop, the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies and the Presidential Innovation Fellows program.  The new division is intended to be a third pillar for GSA, in the mold of the Federal Acquisition Service and the Public Buildings Service.  GSA CIO David Shive has been serving as acting TTS commissioner since Chrousos' departure.

While GSA Administrator Denise Tuner-Roth had said the next TTS commissioner could come from within government, administration officials had signaled repeatedly that they were actively recruiting in Silicon Valley.   Cook, a software engineer and computer graphics pioneer, spent the better part of two decades with Pixar, and since stepping down as that company's vice president of software development in 2012 has been advising a number of Silicon Valley firms.

“We need three things to succeed," Cook said in the announcement of his hire. "[F]irst-rate technology expertise, effective relations with industry and great partners throughout government. Close collaboration with our agency colleagues is crucial to making this possibility a reality."

Also important is a fourth factor that Cook failed to mention: time.  Most political appointees will see their terms expire along with President Barack Obama's on Jan. 20, and many senior vacancies this late in an administration simply go unfilled.  But a GSA spokesperson told FCW that Cook is not a Schedule C appointee, and will be "serving a three-year appointment as a senior executive."

Cook has degrees from Duke and Cornell, and ran and sold two smaller software companies in between stints with Pixar.  And he may well be the only executive in the federal IT community to have won an Oscar -- in 2001, Cook and two colleagues were recognized for their development of Pixar's RenderMan software.

Posted by Troy K. Schneider on Oct 27, 2016 at 6:14 AM

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Reader comments

Mon, Nov 7, 2016

Fed Contractor: pls give the fella chance. He may know something we need here. Agree GSA feels so low about its historical role and image that it tries to impress customers, Congress, and the public with claims of bleeding edginess. But we all know that and have low expectations for the agency. It delivers little, which is why so many customers and vendors work hard to work around it. Let the guy get his feet on the ground and see whether he can stomach the environment and do a great job. He has tremendous talent and is untouched by what ails us here. The new administration stands only a tiny chance of improving things, but individuals scattered around who are not beholden to the New Leader may be just what we need.

Fri, Oct 28, 2016 Federal Contractor

God love GSA. They are so concerned with the notion that people think of them as cutting edge that they lose track of bridging the gap between what the Executive Branch can reasonably do, vs the blank-sheet outside-the-box possibilities available in Silicon Valley. I am sure we all wish Mr Cook the best, but there are enough examples of Silicon Valley folks showing up with unreasonable expectations that all of us (Fed and contractor) will be able to tell within the first 30 days whether he gives HIMSELF a possibility of succeeding. His employees in the TTS components probably already know what approaches will and won't work....

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