Short tenure for first commissioner of GSA’s new technology service

Metedith Somers interviews Phaedra Chrousos on Federal Drive with Tom Temin

Six weeks after being named the head of the new Technology Transformation Service, Phaedra Chrousos is leaving the General Services Administration.

Chrousos said in an email to staff that her last day is July 15, after two years at GSA. She’ll be taking a month off for maternity leave before returning to the private sector sometime in September.

“Looking back at two years at GSA, it’s been really intense, kind of like being a part of a campaign, being part of a startup,” said Chrousos, during a phone call with Federal News Radio. “In those two years, we were able to launch the customer experience office and make a great impact with that, and launch the Technology Transformation Service and set it on a course that I hope we can attract really great career leadership to come [to] and move this organization forward, and lead it into the government even further.”

David Shive, GSA’s chief information officer, will be acting commissioner of the TTS until a permanent one is hired.

Advertisement

“As many of you know, David is a strong supporter of our work, a vocal proponent of how we work, and his organization is a steadfast partner to TTS,” Chrousos wrote in her email to staff. “Aaron [Snow] will remain deputy commissioner in order to stay focused on 18F, and David’s breadth of institutional knowledge will provide TTS management the needed mindshare to hone in on scaling our impact as an organization. David will be at our Town Hall on July 7 —if you are there in person, please do introduce yourself and help welcome him to our team.”

Snow is the executive director of 18F.

Chrousos told Federal News Radio that she wrote the job description for her replacement and will be participating in some of the interviews if time permits.

Chrousos said she’s already reached out to the private sector to let people know she’s looking for someone “with my background, being a little disruptive and breaking things, for lack of a better word. Someone from the startup world is great for the first stages of an organization’s growth, especially when you’re trying to lead people toward a certain vision and trying to gather the troops.”

Denise Turner Roth, GSA’s administrator, wrote in blog post that Chrousos brought her experience to the government of building companies in industries that are disruptive.

“The creation of the Technology Transformation Service would have not been possible without her vision and leadership,” Turner Roth said. “She helped scale 18F from a ‘minimum viable product’ to an organization that agencies recognize as a critical partner in delivering services to the American public.”

GSA launched TTS in May with the idea of having a place where innovation and technology come together.

“I came in and I can’t believe I stayed for as long as I did,” Chrousos said. “I came to government as part of this tour of duty that many people in the digital service have — coming in thinking you’ll stay for six months or a year, see if you could get anything done within the ‘black box’ of what you imagine the government is from the private sector. GSA was a really forward thinking environment to be embedded in. We were able to build two organizations from scratch.”

Chrousos said in the remaining time she has left with TTS, she’s working on better transparency between her agency and industry.

Phaedra Chrousos is the commissioner of the Technology Transformation Service until July 15.
Phaedra Chrousos is the commissioner of the Technology Transformation Service until July 15.

Earlier this month Chrousos testified on Capitol Hill on the work being done at 18F and the U.S. Digital Service.

What she learned from the hearing, she said, was that “we need to communicate more with industry. So there were some misperceptions there in industry’s testimony, and I was surprised, but I think I’ve figured out what’s happening.”

Transparency is not communication, Chrousos said, and her office needs to figured out how to get this information into stakeholders’ hands.

“Like any good marketing strategy, you come together, you think of the different distribution channels and we’re going to try and push information through those channels and make sure that everyone stays engaged without being overly burdensome on the team that’s really focused on getting work done.”

Along with Chrousos, Garren Givens, the director of the Presidential Innovation Fellows also announced he’s leaving after two years.

Givens started as a fellow and rose to direct the program in 2014.

“In the two subsequent years as director, he formalized the fellowship program at GSA, scaled its impact across government, and helped institutionalize its legacy with the drafting and execution of an Executive Order by the President,” Chrousos said. “Garren and his team have recruited, hired and deployed dozens of innovators in the last two years, empowering them and their federal partners to design a better government. Garren ends his tour of duty as a political appointee with the Obama Administration having made a lasting, positive impact on PIF and the broader digital services effort.”

There is no word on who will replace Givens.

President Barack Obama launched the PIF program in 2012 with 96 fellows to work on the administration’s priority programs. The President made the PIF program permanent in August 2014 through the EO.

Turner Roth said the new TTS commissioner will be expected to scale their current efforts and further integrate the new service into the government’s innovation efforts.

“We will be looking for excellent candidates — from the public or private sector — who will continue to pursue our ambitious mission of improving the public’s experience with the government,” she wrote.

Turner Roth told Federal News Radio in May that to finish setting up the TTS, GSA will need to make some internal changes, including around how the new service is funded.

Copyright © 2019 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.