Obama Picks Technology And Performance Officers

Virginia Technology Secretary Aneesh P. Chopra is the nation's first chief technology officer.
Virginia Technology Secretary Aneesh P. Chopra is the nation's first chief technology officer. (By Bob Brown -- Associated Press)
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By Michael D. Shear and Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, April 19, 2009

President Obama has named Virginia Technology Secretary Aneesh P. Chopra to be the nation's first chief technology officer.

The president announced the choice yesterday in his weekly radio and Internet address, adding Chopra to a small group of advisers whose aim it is to enhance and modernize the delivery of government services.

"Aneesh will promote technological innovation to help achieve our most urgent priorities -- from creating jobs and reducing health-care costs to keeping our nation secure," Obama said in the address.

The president also named Jeffrey Zients, a chief executive and former management consultant, to be his chief performance officer. The position was initially offered to Nancy Killefer, who withdrew after questions were raised about her payment of taxes.

Chopra, appointed by Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) in 2006, had been under consideration for months for a job in the Obama administration, including technology chief at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Chopra had put in long hours in Washington helping Obama's transition team get him ready for his first day as president on Jan. 20. He was one of about 50 volunteers from across the nation serving on the transition team's policy group on technology, innovation and government reform.

Chopra did not return messages for comment. He is a former managing director with the Advisory Board Company, a for-profit health-care think tank serving nearly 2,500 hospitals and health systems.

Earlier this decade, Zients played a key role in luring Major League Baseball back to Washington. In a 2004 Washington Post profile, colleagues said that as a boss he could be direct when unhappy but never disparaging.

Zients is the founder and managing partner of Portfolio Logic, an investment firm focused primarily on business and health-care service companies.

Chopra and Zients will work with Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, formerly chief technology officer for the District, to make government work more efficiently. When Kundra's job was announced, the chief technology officer job was mentioned, but no exact job description was given. But sources said the chief technology officer may focus more on overall technology policy while the chief information officer handles day-to-day spending and operations within agency projects.

"The goal is to give all Americans a voice in their government and ensure that they know exactly how we're spending their money -- and can hold us accountable for the results," Obama said.

The president also announced that he will ask all of his Cabinet members to provide specific proposals for how they plan to cut their budgets in an attempt to trim the cost of government.

Obama is under pressure to reduce government waste as he leads an unprecedented increase in overall federal spending in a bid to spark an economic recovery.

In his address, he reiterated his pledge to examine the federal budget "line by line" to find instances of waste. He said that he will soon eliminate programs that are deemed unnecessary.

"In this effort, there will be no sacred cows, and no pet projects. All across America, families are making hard choices, and it's time their government did the same," he said.

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