President Obama announced his picks for two new positions he promised to create during his campaign: a chief performance officer and a chief technology officer.
He selected Jeffrey Zients to be his chief performance officer, and to be dual-hatted as the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. This position was initially to have been filled by Nancy Killefer who withdrew her name from consideration two months ago. Zients will have to be confirmed by the Senate before taking his position at OMB.
He selected Aneesh Chopra to be his chief technology officer. The announcement did not say if this was to be a completely independent office or if he will be co-located in an existing office, such as the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The President did say he would work closely with Vivek Kundra, who had been appointed earlier as the chief information officer for the federal government, who is located in OMB. Chopra’s appointment will not require Senate confirmation.
They will both have to fast-forward quickly to catch up with an agenda that is already hurtling along. The President says he will hold his first full cabinet meeting today and charge the cabinet with cutting wasteful programs, with a target of at least $100 million in savings (more on this in a later blog).
Who is Jeff Zients? The Washington Post did a quick profile of him over the weekend. He’s got a background in private sector benchmarking best practices, having leadership positions in both the Advisory Board and the Corporate Executive Board. This experience will bring a fresh approach to federal management improvement efforts. OMB Director Peter Orzag said in his blog: “Jeff will lead the President’s efforts on contracting and procurement reform, improve government productivity by helping to root out error and waste, build a performance agenda across government, and enhance the transparency of the government’s finances so that citizens are empowered to hold us all accountable for improved stewardship and performance.”
Who is Aneesh Chopra? Chopra used to work with Zients, as well as with Kundra, so the three of them will likely be a formidable team working on government reform issues. Chopra is currently the Secretary of Technology for Virginia. In that role, he’s led a state-wide technology consolidation so the entire state government is on a single technology platform. He has also piloted several interesting innovations, such as the state’s website asking citizens what the state should do with its stimulus monies. Blogger Chris Dorobek has posted a YouTube video of a presentation by Chopra if you want to get a feel for the way he thinks about the use of the Internet as a way of “transforming our overall way of governing.”
What does the President want them to do? The president said: “Aneesh and Jeffrey will work closely with our Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, who is responsible for setting technology policy across the government, and using technology to improve security, ensure transparency, and lower costs. 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.”