RNC installs Facebook engineer as first-ever chief technology officer

The Republican National Committee has hired a senior Facebook engineer to serve as its first-ever chief technology officer, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus announced Tuesday night.

The move to bring on Andy Barkett, 32, an engineering manager at Facebook who has invested early on in several Silicon Valley projects, signals Republicans' intention to become more competitive with Democrats in the digital area.

“I am excited to announce that Andy Barkett will be leading the effort to expand our data and digital capabilities as our Chief Technology Officer,” Priebus said in a statement. “I am confident that with Andy’s experience and our continued efforts to build meaningful relationships with experts in Silicon Valley, we'll see the changes to this part of our operation that we all agree are both important and necessary to winning elections in the future."

Huffington Post first reported the news of the hire Tuesday night.

"It's essential that the Republican Party has the resources to drive voter turnout as we look toward the elections of 2014, 2016 and beyond,” Barkett said in a statement. "Silicon Valley welcomes the party’s efforts to be more creative and innovative, and I look forward to helping the party accomplish these goals."

Scott McNealy, a Republican and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, hailed the move.

"Andy Barkett is a not just a strong advocate of fiscal conservatism and the ability of private enterprise to lift everyone in our nation, but he is the real deal as a technologist too," McNealy said in a statement. "His deep background with several Silicon Valley stalwarts meshes nicely with his exceptional data base and app pedigrees. As an advisor to this effort who has had a chance to work closely with him, I am pleased and excited for him and for our country," McNealy said. "The ability of conservative candidates to get their messages out to the voter using digital technology just got a huge boost."

The RNC's Growth and Opportunity Project, which issued a set of findings in the aftermath of the Republicans' 2012 loss, suggested the committee bring on a chief technology officer by May 1.

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Peter Wallsten | June 4, 2013