I saw the Tweets this morning about Aneesh Chopra “stepping down” based on a FedScoop article posted at midnight last night. Seems like a lot happens after normal business hours in this town.
I thought the most interesting words in the article were: “No information was provided on his future plans, but ongoing speculation includes running for political office to assuming an executive role leading the Washington offices of a major technology company,” writes Luke Fretwell in the article, which cites unnamed sources.
Then around noon the Washington Post just broke the story: Aneesh Chopra leaving the White House, likely to run for Virginia lieutenant governor, but said Chopra did not return requests for comment. (More on the story here.)
Chopra was part of a trio of D.C.-area tech and business heavyweights tapped by Obama at the start of his term to address government management and technological concerns. In the span of a few days in 2009, Obama named Chopra, Virginia’s former secretary of technology, to oversee the government’s tech upgrades, Jeffrey Zients, a D.C.-area business veteran, to serve as the first White House chief performance officer (Zients is now acting director of the Office of Management and Budget), and Vivek Kundra, a former District government official, who stepped down in June after serving as the first White House chief information officer, to go to Harvard briefly and and then recently joined Salesforce.com.

I have written several stories about Chopra and Kundra, and indirectly about Zients with regard to performance data I thought that was lacking for the Data Center Consolidation Initiative.
I am grateful that government is still able to attract bright, creative, and hard working people like them to senior leadership positions.

My concern though is that they launch ambitious initiatives that lack funding and staffing, do not follow Gall’s Law, do not produce sustained and quality results, and then leave in such a way that it looks like government was their platform for their next job.

I have suggested previously that these jobs like federal and agency CIOs and CTOs should be on a one-year term basis so the goals are realistic for that time frame and renewal/extension is based on performance that meets those goals.

Otherwise we are continuing to waste taxpayer dollars and frustrate the regular government workers who are faced with dealing with the considerable churn that accompanies all of this.

Chopra’s “Government as a Platform” really came from Tim O’Reilly which contained 7 Lessons as follows:

Lesson 1: Open Standards Spark Innovation and Growth
Lesson 2: Build a Simple System and Let It Evolve
Lesson 3: Design for Participation
Lesson 4: Learn from Your “Hackers”
Lesson 5: Data Mining Allows You to Harness Implicit Participation
Lesson 6: Lower the Barriers to Experimentation
Lesson 7: Lead by Example

with a list of 10 practical steps for Government Agencies. I think Chopra made a good start on these and now we need someone to succeed him that will carry out these steps so we have a platform of government services and data that work better and cost less.