Aneesh Chopra, the nation's first-ever chief technology officer, would serve as both "assistant to the president" and "associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy," if confirmed by the Senate, White House officials said on Monday.
As assistant to President Obama, he would have direct access to the president, said Rick Weiss, senior science and technology policy analyst at OSTP. Within OSTP, he also would report to OSTP Director John Holdren.
The CTO job was initially touted as a White House-level position but the technology industry feared the post had been downgraded, after months went by without an appointment. When the administration announced the CTO would work at OSTP, open government advocates and industry expressed even more doubts about the job's heft.
But with the president's ear, Chopra, the current technology secretary for the state of Virginia, will automatically carry the backing of the White House when conferring with agency officials.
The CTO slot entails thinking through uses of advanced technologies that can improve the economy and quality of life, Weiss said. Examples include examining how technology can foster private sector innovation, reduce health care costs and transform teaching. White House officials described the CTO position and the role of Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra as complementary. Kundra is more focused on intergovernmental uses of technologies to improve federal operations and public outreach.
The OSTP appointment requires confirmation by the full Senate, but the assistant to the president appointment takes effect immediately, officials said.
Chopra's start date has not yet been determined, as he is tying up loose ends in the Virginia government.