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United States Government News Politics Technology

Should the United States' New CTO Really Be a CIO? 243

CurtMonash writes "Barack Obama promised to appoint the United States' first Chief Technology Officer. Naturally, the blogosphere is full of discussion as to who that should be. I favor American Management Systems founder and former IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti. Richard Koman thinks it should be one of the better state CTOs. John Doerr, going in a different direction, thinks it should be his partner Bill Joy. We can bandy names back and forth all month, but first a more fundamental question needs to be answered: What do we need most — a get-things-done CIO (Chief Information Officer), or a more visionary true CTO? I think it's a CIO, and based on his campaign statements it appears Obama agrees. Management of government IT is a huge, generally unsolved problem, and we need somebody deeply experienced to have a fighting chance. Of course, that doesn't preclude recruiting a visionary CTO in addition, but the highest priority is a CIO. What do you think?"
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Should the United States' New CTO Really Be a CIO?

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  • new territory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:24AM (#25686965)
    Since this position is pretty much new territory for the government, and since there will likely only be a single position created, it will probably end up being a hybrid CIO/CTO position anyways. As for who it should be, the Rossotti suggestion seems fairly reasonable. My father has worked for AMS for the past 20+ years on a number of government contracts. The one thing he always comes back saying is how screwed up and redundant a lot of the setups are--it's layer upon layer of hackjobs just to get the various systems to talk to one another. Rossotti is well aware of the current state of technology affairs within the government. I'm sure there are plenty others like him, but he is definitely someone who would be in a position to help clean up some of the mess that's there.
  • by Ken Hall ( 40554 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:31AM (#25686995)

    Knowing the way politicians think, the obvious candidate would be the recently retired, and possibly available, Bill Gates. I can't think of anyone I'd like to see less though. Anyone know if Obama &co are clued in on techie issues?

  • CIO? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by exa ( 27197 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:40AM (#25687047) Homepage Journal

    Nah, what you guys need is a better technology visionary, not some super sysadmin

  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:45AM (#25687063)

    In Wired, Issue 8.04, April 2000, Bill Joy wrote:

    "It is most of all the power of destructive self-replication in genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics that should give us pause. Self-replication is the modus operandi of genetic engineering, which uses the machinery of the cell to replicate its designs, and the prime danger underlying grey goo in nanotechnology. It is even possible that self-replication may be more fundamental than we thought, and hence harder--or even impossible--to control. The only realistic alternative I see is relinquishment: to limit development of the technologies that are too dangerous, by limiting our pursuit of certain kinds of knowledge."

    This sort of hysterical Ludditism is all too alive and well, and Bill Joy is (or has been) a Luddite of the first order with regards to genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence.

    Unless he has seriously revised his stance, if Bill Joy becomes Obama's "Technology Czar" (what a stupid title "czar" is) we can look forward to a world where the most promising technologies are banned or severely curtailed in the US, with a high probability that international treaties will be pushed down the worlds throat to make the ban universal. At best, such technologies will be developed in China, India, and elsewhere (and at least some people will reap the benefits). This is IMHO, not the kind of person we need setting US political policies as regards technology.

  • Re:No need (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:46AM (#25687069)

    I think the digital TV mandate is a GOOD thing, digital TV allows you to put more data in the same spectrum (or the same data in less spectrum) and frees up the valuable space used by analog TV in the UHF/VHF spectrum for other uses.

    I just wish the FCC et al were more vigilant in enforcing the "all TVs sold must have digital tuners" rule (or whatever it is) so that companies like Best Buy and Walmart couldn't dump dirt cheap analog 4:3 CRT sets on unsuspecting consumers (who are going to need to buy converter boxes to make those sets work with digital TV)

  • Really ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:51AM (#25687101) Homepage Journal
    So in a world where governments are trying to effectively monitor every part of your daily life, and are mainly held back by incompetence, do you think it's a good idea to have some body in charge who actually knows what they are doing ?
  • Re:new territory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by viridari ( 1138635 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @10:57AM (#25687409)

    Ah but if all of the federal IT assets and headcount are transferred under a new department run by this cabinet-level position, the appointee will then have the necessary power.

    It's pretty common in larger international companies to have a division or subsidiary that serves IS/IT needs to the rest of the company. IBM has IGS (which serves both internal and external customers). Johnson & Johnson has NCS. etc.

  • CIO + FOSS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @11:28AM (#25687565)

    > "..addition, but the highest priority is a CIO. What do you think?"

    I think it should be a CIO. I also think that CIO should be ready and willing to start rolling out Open Source software in the government everywhere possible to save our tax money and foster innovation. Why do we continue to shell out billions of dollars for proprietary software when there are free alternatives?

    The CIO should also be involved (in some capacity) in IT competition, anti-monopoly issues, since it is apparent the Department of Justice doesn't know what the hell it has been doing over the last 20 years.

  • by TJ_Phazerhacki ( 520002 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @11:56AM (#25687701) Journal
    Actually, I think Bill would be a great choice. Personal gain is kind of redundant, and he has shown (on a number of occasions) his commitment to "the greater good."


  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:02PM (#25688135) Homepage

    I went to the talk at Stanford where Joy said that. The overall reaction was "Huh?"

  • Re:No need (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mabhatter654 ( 561290 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:06PM (#25688159)

    The FCC did just fine. TV stations were required to be digital 2-3 years ago. It was the media companies allowed to push HDMI and the Broadcast flag at -2 years to flipping the switch that caused the problem. Because the FCC almost mandated every digital TV made for the first 6 years of the conversion process obsolete! Congress approved the time table almost 10 years ago, and the original deadline was moved out 2-3 years.

    The FCC could have pushed up the deadline for electronics though. They made the Digital only TV sales set to January/February of '07 neatly allowing an entire Christmas shopping season of cheap non-digital sets to be sold... somebody was asleep at the switch on that one and it should have been July 6 months sooner. They also dropped the ball on the tuner boxes disallowing any digital outputs to protect sales of expensive HD sets. That meant that no converter boxes on the market prior to early '08 met the requirements of the law and now we're way behind on adoption.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer