Industry officials are awaiting news of a replacement for Aneesh Chopra, the federal chief technology officer, as he becomes the second prominent technology official to leave the Obama administration.
The two were also something of a pair, as they previously worked together in the state of Virginia’s technology office and are friends.
“There was a great synergy between them,” said Bobbie Kilberg, president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council. “They made a subject exciting that many people find boring.”
The two pushed for greater innovation and openness for government and commercial technology. Kundra, in particular, focused on moving to cloud — or Web-based — computing, consolidating federal data centers and developing federal IT programs in a more agile and iterative way, while Chopra encouraged making government data available and giving technology firms the chance to come up with innovative applications.
Tony Ayaz, who heads the Bethesda-based federal unit of California technology firm Splunk, said his company is watching closely who will be selected to replace Chopra.
Chopra’s advocacy for making data available to entrepreneurs made Splunk, which launched its data management business in the commercial world, feel more comfortable as it expanded into the federal government.
Chopra pushed for government to look “at new technology as a good thing, not as a bad thing,” Ayaz said. “There’s a lot of pushback sometimes when you’re introducing new technology.”
Kundra and Chopra helped define the roles of federal CIO and CTO, said Tim Hoechst, chief technology officer at Chantilly-based Agilex, and the next step will be continuing their efforts.
“Both of the roles — of the CIO and the CTO — have created, I think, a good momentum of activity,” Hoechst said. The successors will need to make “sure that that momentum is not lost.”
Still Kilberg and Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the public sector group of industry association TechAmerica, said they don’t expect the priorities to change. Grkavac pointed to Steven VanRoekel, who has taken over for Kundra and “is really building on the foundation and expanding it.”
She noted that the departures aren’t entirely unexpected, as political appointees commonly depart around the beginning of the year if they don’t expect to stay through the November’s election.
“The fourth year going into a presidential election, [contractors] expect this to happen and they plan for it,” she said. “The impact ... is that in some areas it’s more of a holding operation. ... The programs are delayed because of the vacancies at the top.”