Aneesh Chopra: Movin’ On Up

One of the neat things about this job is when you meet a rising star.

Nobody’s rising faster these days than Aneesh Chopra, the former Virginia Secretary of Technology.  President Obama just named Aneesh as the nation’s first technology officer.  Upon confirmation of the Senate, he will assume that post and take control of the technology policy and innovation strategy of the U.S. government.

Yeah, he’s 37.

I’ve known Aneesh for several years, as he came out of NoVA’s high-tech sector and is active in our Indian-American community.  Now he will be overseeing the nation’s high-tech architecture.

What made Aneesh a stand-out at the state level was (i) his enthusiasm for the job and (ii) his willingness to try new solutions.

When the Senate’s Technology Committee convened in January 2008 with several new members, Aneesh came to talk to us about his agency.  High-tech is complicated stuff but he made it simple.  In less than 45 minutes, he had described his agency’s mission and resources, its goals and the means for getting there. 

Basically, his message was “our goal is to make state services more efficient, more accessible, and less costly.”  Love it!

Over the past two years, I attempted to carry some of these ideas on my own legislative plate.  It’s hard to change these policies on a dime, even with a great advocate like Aneesh, when the legislature is giving up control to the Exec Branch.  A lot of my bills on efficicency, better procurement or “green buildings” got stalled or farmed out to study commissions.   

However, the Kaine administration has quietly done some very good things on government efficiency.  First, of course, it required all new state buildings to be built to LEED standards.  Should be a no-brainer but you can’t believe the resistance!

Second, it set up a venture fund for state agencies to catalyze “efficiency” projects which require a start-up cost but will save dollars down the line.  Aneesh took the lead on this.  Actually, I blame him because this was a legislative idea of mine largely mooted, because of the administration’s prior action.

Third, it made changes to “VITA,” our info tech agency, to make it more responsive and cost-efficient as a tool for cutting waste.  Again, that was Aneesh at the helm.  (I wish we still had him to open up our state budget for full on-line accessibility)

My only regret is that the General Assembly has not been aggressive enough to front-load these solutions while we had such talented people at our disposal.  Regardless, our loss is the Federals’ gain.

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