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1/27/2012
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Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra Resigns

Chopra, the first person to hold the federal CTO post and a strong voice behind Obama administration efforts on open government, will depart in February.

The nation's first federal chief technology officer, Aneesh Chopra, will step down from his White House position in early February, according to the White House.

Chopra, who joined the Obama administration in May 2009, has been a vocal force and leader for the Obama administration's technology and innovation policy. Chopra serves as an adviser to the president on innovation and a government liaison with academia and industry. In that role within the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, he has been an outspoken advocate of open government and has focused many of his efforts on innovations in healthcare, the smart grid, and education.

"Aneesh found countless ways to engage the American people using technology, from electronic health records for veterans, to expanding access to broadband for rural communities, to modernizing government records," President Obama said in a statement. "His legacy of leadership and innovation will benefit Americans for years to come, and I thank him for his outstanding service."

Chopra was part of a triumvirate of tech leaders at the White House hired in 2009, including former federal CIO Vivek Kundra (now executive VP at Salesforce.com) and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget Jeff Zients. Those three had all worked together in the past, and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel termed them the "McKinsey guys," saying that they are about "making things happen."

[ Can aggressive federal investment in new technologies stimulate the economy? See 10 Government Ideas To Spur Innovation. ]

In a blog post accompanying the announcement of Chopra's departure today, John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, called Chopra an "energetic" advocate for change. Chopra is known to give ebullient speeches and interviews, and is said to be just as enthusiastic in private.

During his tenure, Chopra has been a regular visitor to Silicon Valley. In a visit there this month, he enlisted tech organizations in the Obama administration's Summer Jobs + program, which aims to "provide pathways to employment" for lower-income youth, and helped announce two West Coast utility companies' participation in the Green Button initiative, an online tool that lets customers download data about their energy use.

Chopra also recently helped lay out the Obama administration's stance on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and other anti-piracy legislation, indicating that the administration would like to see anti-piracy legislation this year, but that any such legislation must be narrowly targeted to prevent censorship or disruption of the Internet's architecture.

Sources have indicated to InformationWeek that Chopra has been considering his departure for some time. The Washington Post reports that Chopra is expected to announce a run for Virginia's lieutenant governor once he leaves his position. Before joining the Obama administration, Chopra served as Virginia's secretary of technology under then Gov. Tim Kaine, an ardent supporter of and campaigner for President Obama. In that role, Chopra drove Virginia's technology policy.

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