Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra: Three ways GovCon sector can help advance innovation

Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra: Three ways GovCon sector can help advance innovation - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Aneesh Chopra
Aneesh Chopra

Back in April, when President Obama announced that Aneesh Chopra would become the nation’s first-ever chief technology officer, a key question swirled among many in the government contracting community: How would the private sector be called upon by Chopra to help pursue Obama’s call for greater efficiency and transparency in government? Recently, Chopra sat down with ExecutiveBiz to outline opportunities he sees for the government contracting community to help create what Chopra calls “a culture of open and innovative government and increasing participation.”

ExecutiveBiz: What are your top priorities?

Aneesh Chopra: The President has often referenced that we have approached a transformational moment in our economy, one that is characterized by technology-based innovation. My top priority as the nation“™s chief technology officer will be to advocate for policies that harness the power and potential of technology and innovation to spur long-term economic growth.

ExecutiveBiz: Who do you intend to work with to bring about this result?

Aneesh Chopra: I intend to work closely with our university community, the private sector, our public research assets as well as other stakeholders within the federal, state, and local government to surface ideas and collaborate on solutions.

ExecutiveBiz: Can you name a component of that goal?

Aneesh Chopra: One component of that goal is to channel innovation to address the President“™s key domestic priorities: healthcare, energy efficiency, and reforming our educational system. I intend to work with the public, private, and academic sectors to uncover game-changing ideas to address these priorities. In this effort, we are working hard to make it frictionless for entrepreneurs to participate. For example, imagine a health IT or smart grid “app store“ that would allow entrepreneurs and corporations to access government data and build innovative commercial solutions. In addition, we intend to bring the best ideas into government operations as part of the President“™s Open Government initiative. In partnership with CIO Vivek Kundra, we hope to find creative procurement strategies or applied R&D opportunities to build innovation into the programs themselves so that we have the best thinking in areas where taxpayer dollars are at risk.

“For our friends in the contracting community, there might be game-changing ideas that are not well-suited for traditional procurement that would be interesting to examine à la” “” Aneesh Chopra

ExecutiveBiz: What do these efforts mean to the government contracting community?

Aneesh Chopra: This gives us three new opportunities. First, for larger, multi-disciplinary contractors, this provides a unique opportunity for their public sector and commercial teams to come together in pursuit of strategies that will bring to government the best public and private sector thinking.

Second, we hope to find a way to procure innovation without requiring responses to 2,000-plus detailed requirements in an RFP just to get in the door. I recommend visiting as one example where entrepreneurs, contractors, corporations, or whomever have the ability to present novel ideas to address complex problems presented by the DoD. The program allows for an ongoing dialogue with the partner and, we hope, will lead to tangible results. For our friends in the contracting community, there might be game-changing ideas that are not well-suited for traditional procurement that would be interesting to examine à la

The third component really speaks to the implications for the contracting community vis-à-vis the method by which they deliver government projects. In partnership with CIO Vivek Kundra, we intend to be very clear on the rules of the road that will encourage greater openness and innovation in the provision of services contracted through traditional mechanisms. There may be opportunities to engage with, for example, to implement the President“™s priorities on transparency by instilling a culture of open and innovative government and increasing participation.

ExecutiveBiz: What“™s next for cybersecurity?

Aneesh Chopra: Cybersecurity is an important pillar among my priorities. The President made it clear in his announcement of the cybersecurity report that he intends to collaborate with the private sector. He has engaged a cross-agency policy working group to ensure the best recommendations to increase the safety and reliability of our digital infrastructure. The President has called for a new cybersecurity coordinator to work closely with the CTO and CIO.

Since his announcement, I“™ve worked closely with the cybersecurity team on private sector critical infrastructure. Just last week, I spent the day in New York with leaders from the financial services industry to surface recommendations that we can target for more rapid implementation. I intend to focus on critical areas like financial services, energy, and healthcare in the months to come. A related but important factor in addressing this issue is the national broadband plan that will help shape strategies for long-term growth. I intend to deliver on the President“™s call for aligning broadband and cybersecurity strategies and am very confident that if we are successful, we will promote greater utilization of our broadband infrastructure.

ExecutiveBiz: How do we balance national security and civil liberty?

Aneesh Chopra: The President has said we must preserve both. If we focus on outcomes, we provide room for all voices at the table to work together to address these policy challenges. A key message the President conveyed was that the government would not take over private networks. On critical infrastructure I“™ve already seen the financial services industry coming together to develop a plan that will strengthen the confidence of the American people with the government serving as a convener and collaborator, not manager.

ExecutiveBiz: How has your life changed as CTO?

Aneesh Chopra: On paper, a lot of the challenges we need to address at the national level were, to some degree, present at the state level, where I served under Gov. [Tim] Kaine.  The pace and scale of the effort, however, are clearly much more significant now in my service to the President. It“™s been an extraordinary experience contributing as a member of the President“™s senior staff, especially when we convene every morning to make sure we are aligned and coordinated. I“™ve worked my share of 20-plus hour days, but the enthusiasm, passion, and excitement I feel for this opportunity to serve make it feel like a walk in the park.

ExecutiveBiz: Is there anything else you“™d like to add?

Aneesh Chopra: I am very proud of the manner in which the President has called on us to engage the public in the development of open government policies. If you visit, you can engage and participate in the public-driven policymaking process through June. I“™m hopeful that as many of your readers as possible will participate.

ExecutiveBiz: Do you plan to use Twitter to communicate with the public?

Aneesh Chopra: Yes, I have plans to take advantage of Twitter and other social media to inform the public about my activities as I complete my due diligence on specific priorities. If my message is understood, and I can collaborate with enough people to advance the priorities of the President, then I am confident I will be held accountable for results.

Interview conducted by JD Kathuria

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