Who will be Obama's CTO?

Three days after the election, one of the hot topics in Washington is speculation about whom President-elect Obama might name as the nation's first chief technology officer.

Already the list of notable prospects includes Google's Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, its Internet guru Vint Cerf and Amazon's Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos. Other potential choices being mentioned in the media include Sun Microsystems' co-founder Bill Joy, Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison and Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer.

In his campaign, Obama pledged to appoint a CTO to ensure that federal agencies have access to the best IT infrastructure policies and services. The CTO's role is to ensure the safety of government networks and coordinate efforts with agency CTOs and chief information officers.

Obama this week named to his transition team tech advisers that included Julius Genachowski, former business operations director at InterActiveCorp.; Google executive Sonal Shah, and Donald Gips of L-3 Communicationsa domestic advisor to Al Gore. They also are being talked about as potential candidates for the CTO job and other information technology policy-related positions.

Genachowski chaired the advisory committee that produced Obama's technology and innovation plan. The group also included Stanford Law School's Larry Lessig, former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt and Craig Newmark, founder of Craig's List. They, along with Michael Nelson, formerly of IBM, and Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, also are the subject of speculation for the CTO job and other tech-related positions in the Obama Administration.

Schmidt, chief executive of Google, was a prominent supporter of Obama. He and the several other chief executives being discussed, including Ballmer, Bezos and Ellison, presumably would have to take leaves of absence from their corporate positions to serve in a full time capacity to the White House.

There also is discussion about whether the CTO will also take control of federal cybersecurity, or whether a separate cyber chief would be appointed.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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