Federal Chief Technology Officer nominee Aneesh Chopra garnered little attention from lawmakers examining his and other presidential appointments on Tuesday, raising the question: How important is the first-ever federal CTO?
The only substantive question for Chopra came from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who asked about his plans for telemedicine, or treating Americans in remote areas through video conferences and other Internet-based technologies. Chopra said expanding telemedicine is a two-pronged strategy to create jobs and lower medical costs.
That was it from them. Nothing more.
No one during the question and answer session asked him about controversial technology issues, such as transitioning to electronic health records or updating the energy grid.
The ambivalence signals, perhaps, a misunderstanding of the position or, worse, indifference about the role.
To be fair, lawmakers were allowed to submit questions in writing, separately. Plus, Chopra is widely considered a capable person, and the committee also was reviewing nominations for positions at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Transportation Department and the economic affairs division at the Commerce Department.
Hot-button issues such as airline safety, the 2010 Census, and the transition to digital television fall under the other nominees' domains.
But Chopra's role, according to the administration, is to develop national strategies for using advanced technologies to transform the economy and society. Doesn't that include overhauling transportation systems and expanding access to digital television?
Chopra was not asked to chime in on these issues.