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Todd Park Stepping Down as Obama’s CTO

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • For years the IT community has been building walls and digging moats to keep out cyber attacks. Now the focus has changed. Rather than zero-in on outside invaders, security experts have set their sights on internal vulnerability. We take a look at the new approach with Force 3’s Greg Kushto.

 

You can find all of our programs online: DorobekINSIDER.com and GovLoop Insights at http://insights.govloop.com.

But up front: Todd Park stepping down as CTO – an assessment

 

Todd Park, the Obama administration’s second chief technology officer and its IT energizer bunny, is leaving that post, Fortune magazine reports. Fortune, quoting “sources familiar with the situation,” says that Park is expected to take on a new White House role, working from Silicon Valley to recruit tech talent into government roles. For example, he recently helped hire former Google executive Mikey Dickerson to help identify and fix government websites. He is expected to take on a new White House role, working from Silicon Valley to recruit tech talent into government roles. For example, he recently helped hire former Google executive Mikey Dickerson to help identify and fix government websites.

 

Fortune’s sources say that the decision was driven by his family’s desire to move back to the West Coast, something he has told friends privately for several years.

 

Park was the administration’s second chief technology officer. Initially, Park served as the CTO at the Department of Health and Human Services before moving to the White House in taking over for Aneesh Chopra when he left that post.

 

Park is responsible for a number of initiatives focused on leveraging technology to improve citizen services and government outcomes, such as the President’s Open Data Initiatives to liberate data for the purposes of fueling innovation and economic growth, and the first-ever Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which has fostered new approaches to creative problem-solving within the federal government.

 

Park, much like Chopra before him, seems to have endless amounts of energy. I have introduced him before as the energizer bunny of government IT — and that energy is infectious.

 

And I am a huge fan of the Presidential Innovation Fellow program — a program that brings people to government for short stints to focus on specific problems. Park is a big fan of Eric Ries’s book The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses and has used those concepts to build the Presidential Innovation Fellow program. That being said, it will be interesting to see if that program survives a new administration.

 

Most people who care about government IT — and its importance in helping government achieve its mission more effectively — are pleased with a high profile person in a high profile White House role. But the consensus among people I talk to is that it hasn’t helped all that much.

 

Personally I get frustrated by this administration’s seeming disinterest in government — specifically, its seeming disinterest in government management. The Obama administration’s Presidential Management Agency is largely shelfware, and while they officials discuss issues like open data, those discussions are generally in the context of the importance of open data to the economy and building new businesses. Nobody disagrees with the importance of the economy and building new businesses, but there has been much less focus on helping government do its job better and, specifically, on using technology to accomplish “the mission.”

 

Just one case in point: While the CTO job was created by the Obama administration with great fanfare, the administration has buried it within the White House bureaucracy. “Shortly after assuming office, President Obama created the new title of Chief Technology Officer within the EOP, but assigned it to his choice for Associate Director of OSTP for Technology.74 While signaling that this appointee is the Administration’s point person for technology issues, the individual holding the title is in a position subordinate to the OSTP Director,” according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service [PDF].

 

To that end, it will be interesting to see whether future administrations continue to have a White House CTO. (CRS had its assessment of the CTO job back in 2010 [PDF])

 

VentureBeat says that there is no word on who might replace Park, “although Fortune’s sources indicate that potential candidates from LinkedIn, Google, and Twitter. An official announcement from the White House about Park’s departure could come (soon).”

 

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. FCW: “What it Takes to Achieve Effective Cyber Defense”— Although the federal government is quick on the defense regarding extreme crises, its structure and design does not allow it to adapt to the constant, new threats stemming from the cybersecurity arena.

  2. NextGov: “Why is LinkedIn so popular with employees of the US Army?”— With the exception of Hewlett-Packard and IBM, the U.S. Army is listed as “current employer” more than any other organization by LinkedIn users. On Monday, as many as 231,973 members of the site became “self-affiliated” with the Army, with 4,489 working within the information technology sector and 7,843 of these users working within government administration. Since the U.S. Army does not particularly endorse the website nor include what social media sources to use in the Army social media handbook, it is unclear as to why LinkedIn is as popular among U.S. Army employees. One explanation: the vast size of Army; with more than 1 million reserve, active, and National Guard members, as well as federal civilian employees, the U.S. Army is the largest branch within the U.S. Armed Services.

  3. The Wall Street Journal: “Outgoing SEC CIO finalizes data platform”—Thomas Bayer, CIO of the Securities and Exchange Commission for the last four years, announced this week that he will step down in October. He is “just now starting” the search for a new job, he told CIO Journal. He hopes to return to the private sector, possibly in financial services. The SEC has not yet begun searching for Mr. Bayer’s replacement. He will be busy during the next month and a half as he works to update a number of

  4. Federal News Radio: “Pentagon sees competition declining in defense contracting, and orders remedies”—Defense Department Undersecretary Frank Kendall is ordering a new round of policy changes and guidelines aimed at boosting competition numbers for acquisitions, according to Federal News Radio. In a 24-page book published Friday, Kendall offered best practices for fostering competition and lays out examples of defense programs that have managed to do so even in cases where there was no direct competition. The guidelines offer several ways managers can prevent their programs from being locked into a single vendor, including employing open-systems architecture to enable ongoing competitions at the level of individual components. The booklet also implores managers to focus on making sure the government owns enough of a program’s intellectual property to maintain a competitive environment but doesn’t place so much demand on proprietary data to chill participation.

 

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder… yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too…

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  • Our future government will work more like Amazon [Verge oped by Michael Case, Vox Media product team coordinator]: Technology is the answer to a lot of American government’s current operational shortcomings. Not only are the tools and systems most public servants use outdated and suboptimal, but the organizations and processes themselves have also calcified around similarly out-of-date thinking. So the real challenge won’t be designing cutting edge software or high tech government facilities — it’s going to be conjuring the will to overcome decades of old thinking. It’s going to be convincing over 90,000 employees to learn new skills, coaxing a bitterly divided Congress to collaborate on something scary, and finding a way to convince a timid and distracted White House to put its name on risky investments that won’t show benefits for many years.

  • Today’s college freshmen were born in 1996, and you are old [Vox] Many college freshmen this year were born in 1996. Yes, that should make you feel very old — and Beloit College has a long list to prove it: During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center. FOX News and MSNBC have always been duking it out for the hearts and minds of American viewers. Hello Dolly…cloning has always been a fact, not science fiction. Two-term presidents are routine, but none of them ever won in a landslide.

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