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Senate Sources Say CTO Confirmation a Done Deal 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the casting-a-critical-eye dept.
theodp writes "On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will examine the nomination of Aneesh Chopra as the first-ever federal Chief Technology Officer. Senate sources said they were not aware of any debate surrounding his nomination. You'd think the hack-for-$10-million-ransom of Virginia's Prescription Monitoring Program might be good for a question or two. Or the wisdom of appointing a CTO who's no technologist. It might also be worth bringing up Chopra's membership in TiE-DC, a group which promises 'exclusive peer networking events' with government officials and Federal contractors, including TiE-DC sponsor Microsoft. Are there any other issues that might make the Confirmation Hearing more than a rubber-stamping?"
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Senate Sources Say CTO Confirmation a Done Deal

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  • ODF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by levell (538346) * on Sunday May 17, 2009 @09:31AM (#27986193) Homepage

    As a Brit, this appointment won't affect me directly. But indirectly US Government policy has an important global effect. I'll be watching closely to see whether ODF becomes widely used as a document format by the US Federal Government.

    The ODF Alliance have welcomed the appointment [odfalliance.org], as have Tim O'Reilly [oreilly.com] and a host of other people [blogs.com] so I'm hopeful that it will turn out to be a good thing

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lorenlal (164133)

      "Or the wisdom of appointing a CTO who's no technologist."

      That's all I need to read to know the following:
      -US tech policy will go to the highest bidder.
      -That nationalized EMR database? Virginia*50.
      -The ODF standard that you're talking about? Open Document Format? "Microsoft has one, and it's perfectly fine."
      -Rubber stamping? Nothing to stop this one. With control of the senate in Dem hands, they won't waste time questioning whoever the pres appoints. Even if the Reps were the majority, I don't think a

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by yincrash (854885)
        You infer a whole lot.
      • Re:ODF? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by shakuni (644197) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:30AM (#27986423)

        While I am not a supporter of any particular person, I think a CTO doesnt need to be a specialist but should have the breadth of understanding across a range of issues around technologies, have the strong analytical sense so that he or she can organize problems and solutions in a structure that makes decision making possible. I think it is structured thinking and a demonstrated love for technology that are important not advanced knowledge of a particular focussed discipline.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pipingguy (566974) *
          A sound bullshit detector might also be useful...
        • I agree, and this rules out the current choice - I have never met a good CTO that wasn't very broad but also a recognized leader in a specific field. Usually a CTO with a background in Physics or Applied mathematics can pretty much comprehend anything thrown at them from a technology standpoint - Public Administration and Business grads need not apply (unless you got it as a second degree to go along with that Physics/math/Engineering degree)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          While I am not a supporter of any particular person, I think a CTO doesnt need to be a specialist but should have the breadth of understanding across a range of issues around technologies, have the strong analytical sense so that he or she can organize problems and solutions in a structure that makes decision making possible. I think it is structured thinking and a demonstrated love for technology that are important not advanced knowledge of a particular focussed discipline.

          This is the usual argument in sup

      • 'What I brought to the table was an understanding of the capabilities of new technologies and how they might advance a particular agenda...

        Very scary. So now we'll get a guy who spins dials and pushes buttons but doesn't have a clue as to what they do. Don't tell him which one is the seat ejection.

    • I'll be watching closely to see whether ODF becomes widely used as a document format by the US Federal Government.

      I am less interested in how a file is saved than how in it is used.

      The reasons for its creation.

  • Seriously... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Is there no way you could have written a more biased, uninformed summary? Geesh...

    It's submissions like this that bring down the quality of slashdot.

    • by BronsCon (927697)

      And it's comments like yours (and, now, mine... thanks) that bring it down further.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think the question is not are there issues that prevent a rubber stamp, but are there issues that SHOULD prevent a rubber stamp. What happens in Congress and what Congress is supposed to do are 2 different things. Politically, I think this is viewed as a fringe issue few will care about, so no ones wants to rock the popular Obama boat challenging it.

  • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Sunday May 17, 2009 @09:53AM (#27986277) Journal

    By all means, centralize all IT policy for the federal government into some agency that knows basically squat about what each department does. These days, inefficiency in government is about all the chance we get for freedom.

    -jcr

    • These days, inefficiency in government is about all the chance we get for freedom.

      Except freedom to keep most of what we earn, unfortunately.

      • by tsm_sf (545316)
        Get off my roads.
        • by PachmanP (881352)

          Get off my roads.

          I'll pay for roads. The DOT budget is pretty insignificant really...
          I'll pay for national defense. I'd even pay wars of aggression if we actually got a return on investment.
          Hell, I'd even pay for public ed if you could fix the current system.

          I'm not too keen on paying the ~40% of the total budget used to pay old people, so they can spend more time on vacation.

          • by tsm_sf (545316)
            I'd even pay wars of aggression if we actually got a return on investment.

            Wow. It's refreshing to see someone come out on the side of evil so openly. At least you have the balls to do so... I can't help but admire your courage, even as I loathe your viewpoint.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Except freedom to keep most of what we earn, unfortunately.

        Move to Sweden, then complain about taxes.

        Most Americans wouldn't know real taxation if it came up and bit their faces off.

        • Please give us more face biting like Sweden. (though I will note I am an NYC resident and have fairly high taxation already, b US standards).
    • Centralization of these functions is not necessarily a bad thing. I work in the group that maintains the backbone network of a heavily decentralized county government, and I would love to have someone who could put in place some guidance that is heavily backed by the Board of Supervisors to the degree that someone has to provide some very good reasons when they don't follow it. Instead, we have 26 agencies with 26 IT departments, about half of whom do not care in the slightest to match what anyone else do

  • Rubberstamp (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:01AM (#27986291)

    Are there any other issues that might make the Confirmation Hearing more than a rubber-stamping?

    Dude, Congress ignored illegal wiretaps, Bush signing statements, being lied to about Iraq, and torture. But they did find time [go.com] to have hearings on the Bowl Championship Series playoff system.

    Do you think they really give a f*ck about something substantial?

  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by value_added (719364) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:07AM (#27986311)

    Perhaps as a Canadian I don't appreciate the finer points of the American political process, but I'm having trouble finding a meaningful relationship in this sequence of events:

    1. Senate Hearing is scheduled.

    2. Random Blog quotes unnamed "[s]enate sources" as saying "they were not aware of any debate surrounding his nomination."

    3. Slashdot editors release a news story with a headline of "Senate Sources Say CTO Confirmation a Done Deal"

    4. Thinly disguised editorial consisting mostly of anti-Microsoft remarks and an assertion that confirmation hearings are a sham process is submitted as a news story to Slashdot.

    Sigh. I guess I'll have to reconsider Slashdot as primary source of news and go back to reading newspapers and watching C-SPAN.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Slashdot never was and is not a source of news. It's a news aggregator.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Funny)

      by TropicalCoder (898500) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:32AM (#27986433) Homepage Journal

      "Thinly disguised editorial consisting mostly of anti-Microsoft remarks and an assertion that confirmation hearings are a sham process is submitted as a news story to Slashdot."

      I don't get what you are complaining about here. Is it the "anti-Microsoft remarks" that put you off? Here on Slashdot, we enjoy a sprinkling of anti-Microsoft remarks in just about any article or comment, as others enjoy a dash of pepper on their pasta to spice up their food. I suppose if you personally don't enjoy this, perhaps this is not the forum for you.

      • by oldhack (1037484)
        Some people like to pour down cheese on spaghetti. Maybe the guy's a cheese-loving sort of Canadian.
    • by oldhack (1037484)
      It's like that other story here about "News dilemma." We get what we pay for.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Thinly disguised editorial consisting mostly of anti-Microsoft remarks and an assertion that confirmation hearings are a sham process is submitted as a news story to Slashdot.

      You do have a point. That's not actually news.

    • It is because of considered postings such as yours that I value Slashdot for its news and analysis.
      Stay eloquent, my friend.

  • CxO (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Qzukk (229616) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:09AM (#27986319) Journal

    Or the wisdom of appointing a CTO who's no technologist.

    I think "knowing anything at all about what you're doing" stopped being a requirement for executive positions around the time of Worldcom's collapse... at least if you go by public statements by major corporate executives since then.

    • by funkboy (71672)

      I think "knowing anything at all about what you're doing" stopped being a requirement for executive positions around the time of Worldcom's collapse... at least if you go by public statements by major corporate executives since then.

      As CTO of the country, would you rather have:

        - a geek, or

        - somebody really good listening to at managing geeks?

      Chopra is squarely in the second category.

      • Do the geeks think that he's good at managing them? I've had plenty of managers whom their superiors have thought were good at managing geeks, but who were hated by those they oversaw, and who were sometimes the targets of sabotage to get them out. I'd be interested in the turnover under Chopra (and one may need to look several levels lower) to see how he's perceived in the trenches.

        Of course, this may be like the cybersecurity czar: a lot of work to get someone in place who then has no real power to do a

        • As far as I can tell, he doesn't have any staff - at least not yet. His role appears to be advisory. He's a direct report to the president, so he can cruise around Washington meeting with Gov't depts and trying to help them get their tech plans rolling (or whatever). If they don't like his help, they can know that he might sandbag them with POTUS. So he's going to have a lot of influence in Washington, but not a lot of "line authority." At least that's the best as I can figure it.

      • by theodp (442580)

        Or perhaps a third category - good at outsourcing geeks [typepad.com]. :-)

  • by AndGodSed (968378) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:15AM (#27986347) Homepage Journal

    I read something negative about Microsoft in the summary and decided to jump in with an uninformed jibe of my own.

    M$ is Teh Suxorz!

  • by scooter.higher (874622) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:21AM (#27986385) Homepage Journal

    We have the best politicians money can buy.

  • Need not be overly technically savvy, just be able to understand
    the basic ideas and make a fair choice. Sadly. politics WILL rear
    it's ugly head and compromise things. So sad.

    • "Need not be overly technically savvy, just be able to understand the basic ideas and make a fair choice."

      You need to be technically savvy to understand the basic ideas of information technology and make fair choices.

  • issues? really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by nemoest (69043) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:28AM (#27986417) Journal

    God forbid someone in the VA-MD-DC area belongs to a group used for professional networking! As we all know, most non-profit professional groups have no [cfp2009.org] sponsors [nvtc.org] whatsoever [dcacm.org].

    Also, who's to say he's not qualified to do the job just because of being labeled not a technologist back in 2005? Maybe what is needed for a CTO position is someone who understands how government and policy is applied [virginia.gov] (see MPP degree reference) to solve problems, and how the application of technology is a key factor?

    I do agree, though, some questions about the Prescription Monitoring Program would be warranted.

    But really, with the tax problems of other appointees, maybe most of this stuff is seen as small potatoes. If you don't agree, though, feel free to contact someone on the committee [senate.gov]. The hearing starts on Tuesday. [senate.gov]

    • by theodp (442580)

      Should we contact Committee member Mark Warner, whose Friends of Mark Warner PAC receives contributions from Mr. Chopra [campaignmoney.com]? :-)

      • by nemoest (69043)
        When it comes to selecting individuals for political appointments, quite often they are done for... well... political reasons. Sometimes it's because of bipartisanship [dot.gov], coalition building, or because someone is really well qualified [whitehouse.gov]. Other times it is because they are well networked or engaged in a little quid pro quo. Sure, if it is to the level of Blagojevich they may get caught, and we should discourage the outright sale of governmental positions. On the other hand, I still think as long as he was wo
    • Well said. I met with Chopra after he was nominated for this job, and my perception is that he's very in-tune with how government policy is impacted by technology, and how technology creates jobs in the private sector.

      He's not an open source advocate per se, but he definitely understands the principles of openness which can change the game in terms of how markets operate. So, I think we can rely on him to make honest assessments of where open source makes sense and deploying it (or advocating that others do

  • by Hercules Peanut (540188) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:52AM (#27986519)
    The democrats have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate and solid control of the House. They aren't going to make their own party look bad and don't have to give the Republicans a chance to do it. This is the problem with putting a single party in almost total power. We will see more of this until some sort of balance is restored.

    If you thought the Republicans did a lot of damage controlling the Executive and Legislative, just wait. The Democrats have an opportunity here with the overwhelming majority to do far more. For all of you scientists out there you are going to get a crash course in faith because that is about the only thing we can have that bad does not become worse over the next two or more years. We certainly don't have any control or checks or balances.

    Understand that this is not a Republican vs Democrat rant. I don't trust any of them to look out for the good of the nation. That's why I am deeply concerned about any one party dominating government.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by darkmeridian (119044)

      I doubt that the Democrats could top the Republicans in starting an unneeded war, cutting taxes for the rich by $1 trillion, embarking on a $50 billion (unfunded) Medicare prescription drug program, illegal wiretapping, torture, outing a CIA agent for political gain, allowing North Korea to gets tehs nukes, ban stem cell research, make political affiliation a criteria for selection of Department of Justice employees, or unrestricted instances of extraordinary rendition.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Toonol (1057698)
        Really? Half of those bullet points were due to Republicans acting like Democrats. I have no doubt that list can be topped by the current administration. What they've already done to industry may be far worse than any consequence of the war.
        • by tsm_sf (545316)
          Except for, you know, all the dead people.
          • by Toonol (1057698)
            Death doesn't trump everything else. I'd rather have another Iraq war than have the Federal government seize control of banking and medicine.
        • I don't think this is an issue of Repubs/Dems, this is an issue of "in power/in opposition."

          The Republicans are definitely very good at being in the minority - they can clamor for lower spending, less government, etc, but put them in power and they act just like Democrats: that tells me that the people in power exert power and spend money. That's not a Repub/Dem thing, since they both do it whenever possible.

          For the last eight years many Dems have been griping about too much spending, but put them in power

  • by waldoj (8229) <waldo@jaquit[ ]rg ['h.o' in gap]> on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:17AM (#27986643) Homepage Journal

    We all discussed Aneesh Chopra on /. a month ago [slashdot.org], folks. No less than Tim O'Reilly has vouched for him as a technological bad-ass [oreilly.com]. Read that. Read the comments. Then return here and carry on. There's no need for us to have to re-learn who this guy is every time he's written about here.

    • Clearly, he's able to embrace the synergistic opportunities provided by the Web 2.0 and Cloud Computing paradigms... What's not to like?
    • Tim O'Reilly has vouched for him as a technological bad-ass

      That'd be the Vindaloo.

  • by TropicalCoder (898500) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @12:02PM (#27986927) Homepage Journal

    It has been stated that maybe what is needed for a CTO position is someone who understands how government and policy is applied. If you watch this video [youtube.com] where Paul Chopra in his capacity as Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia keynoted the 5th Annual State of the Net Conference 2009, you may come to the conclusion as I did that he is a very capable man, with the requisite political savvy to get things done. Political skills may turn out to be more important than geek level technical knowledge in the end. In this entire 51 minute video, it is hard to find fault with Mr. Chopra as he discusses such things as Virginia's open text book initiative. However it isn't until near the very end that some serious concerns are triggered for me. At 38:13 he speaks of a new initiative called "Plugged In" that rests on a very basic hypothesis that "In 6 months we can take a high school drop out and prepare them for a technology job." It is a GED program that reconstitutes the curriculum for adults adding in certificates "with the help of partners like Microsoft". A state government promoting a private company is worrisome to me.

    The second concern I had was at 48:30 where he is responding to a question about how to best stimulate innovative start-ups and entrepreneurship. To this he replies by talking about his "GAP Fund" that supplies $100 K investments to new start-ups "Restricted only to innovative technology companies that are grounded in intellectual property." "We have a billion service companies, but it's the grounding in intellectual property that to us is the secret, so it's targeting limited resources to intellectual property". He does not explain why "a billion service companies" are not important to him.

    Now when I played the question from the audience that provoked this response over a couple of times, it struck me as very strange. The question was: "There are tens of thousands of small startups that are really producing innovative products based on intellectual property. What is the best way that a state can promote small startups, and making sure of course that they collaborate with their IP, but it's protected and monetized in a way that they can sell it out to other places?" It leads one to ponder - why does the speaker consider intellectual property so important? Why does he emphasise it in just that way, rather than speak about hi tech startups in general? Could he have been a Microsoft plant? Suddenly as I listened to this, I got a vision of Microsoft lobbyists and sales people crawling all over government initiatives everywhere, making little deals here and there to ensure the open source is blocked at every turn.

  • by theodp (442580) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @12:16PM (#27986979)

    Since the White House said Chopra will be creating jobs and reducing health care costs [whitehouse.gov], it seems a question or two about his involvement with Healthaxis should be asked. In 2005, Chopra took a seat on the Board of Healthaxis [findarticles.com], which was brokered as part of an offshoring deal [sec.gov] that required Healthaxis to throw offshoring work to an investor's BPO company in an effort to reduce the costs of its Utah and Jamaica resources [sec.gov]. At the time of his 2006 resignation, Healthaxis reported to the SEC that Chopra, who also sat on the firm's Compensation Committee, had 'no disagreement [sec.gov] with the Company on any matter'.

  • Generally the answer is; the people doing the hiring, being time-serving lackies, don't want anyone working for them that is smarter then them. And being non-techies themselves, risk losing control or looking stupid, as in a new techie-CTO would wonder why they got their job. The best way of getting found out is to hire a non-techie CTO and keep recycling the real IT staff .:)

    'Industry experience does little to prepare you for the additional complexities of working within the bounds of government .. Chop

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