Report: Obama narrows down CTO choices

The president-elect may have winnowed his options for a national CTO to two people, including a Cisco technologist, according to BusinessWeek.

With reports all but confirmed that President-elect Barack Obama will be nominating Julius Genachowski to lead the Federal Communications Commission, speculation continues to grow over whom the incoming president may choose to be his chief technology officer.

An Obama transition team member would not confirm Genachowski's nomination but did not deny it. The transition team member could not say, however, whether the president-elect is any closer to naming a CTO .

Padmasree Warrior
Padmasree Warrior Cisco Systems

A report from BusinessWeek maintains that the choice has come down to two people who already hold the title of CTO: Padmasree Warrior, of networking giant Cisco Systems, and Vivek Kundra, who works for the city of Washington, D.C.

Kundra's office declined to comment on the speculation, but the CTO has been praised for making Washington's bureacratic system more efficient and encouraging the development of the city's tech sector.

"He's charismatic and smart," Steve Moore, the president and CEO of the Washington, D.C., Economic Partnership, told CNET in an interview earlier this month. "He's a constant adviser for us on technology and what our priorities should be."

Representatives of Cisco could not comment on whether Warrior is under consideration for the role, though a Cisco spokesperson did say the company is a fan of Obama's plan to appoint a CTO.

"Cisco is committed to working closely with the Obama administration on their plans to deploy digital infrastructure to grow our economy and create jobs," the spokesperson said.

Warrior joined Cisco in 2007 after serving as CTO and then executive vice president at Motorola, where she oversaw an R&D budget of more than $3 billion and a team of 26,000 engineers. She was a part of Motorola, an Illinois-based company, for 23 years, and shares some ties with at least one Chicago-based Obama team member. Both Warrior and senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett sit on the board of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.

Anther possible contender for the national CTO position is Edward Felten, a computer science and public affairs professor at Princeton University and the founding director of the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy. Felten declined to comment on whether he is under consideration for the job.

It is still unclear exactly what role the CTO would play in the federal government.

"There are different ways to define a CTO's role, but along with the appointment, there may be some clarification of what exactly the role will be," Felten said.

 

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