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Report: Kundra to Be Named to Muscular U.S. CIO Post

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, March 5 2009

photo-Vivek_Kundra.jpg (JPEG Image, 120x160 pixels)Washington Post tech reporter Kim Hart, whose piece on Vivek Kundra is probably the defining profile of the former DC CTO, has brought us the latest: Kundra will be appointed by President Obama to the newly-created position of federal Chief Information Officer.

Tim O'Reilly tweeted the news: "Vivek is a rock star!" And now, it seems, he's a rock star with budgetary authority! As Hart has it, the Google-apps loving, happiness-index-embracing, data-democratizing Kundra will have total budgetary authority over the government's technology spending. This supercharged federal Chief Information Officer slot, she writes, will also have the power to kill projects -- no matter where in the bowels of DOD or EPA or DHS they might happen to lurk. And he'll also have the mandate to launch intragovernmental projects where he sees fit. Kundra had been rumored to fill Karen Evans' old e-government administrator slot at the Office of Management and Budget, a job that has been around for decades. As Hart paints it, the federal Chief Information Officer job seems to be a significant increase in the scope of his portfolio and a meaningful boost in institutional authority.

That's a tall order. To slay rogue defense contractors and tame intra-agency IT projects run amok, a CIO would need a strong ally in the White House. Obama, of course, has framed the smart use of connective technologies as not only integral to his style of campaigning campaign style, but a thread running throughout his post-millennium governing ideology. It's good to have a friend in the Oval Office. That said, it's not exactly clear at one point in the process, for example, even a high-profile federal CIO could have dipped his or her fingers into, say, the FBI and said "this $100 million virtual case file system is dead to me. Be gone!"

Hart and others have also reported that the still open position of federal Chief Technology Officer will likely focus on advising the Obama White House on matters of technology policy. The CTO job has been rumored to be housed in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. That office, part of the Executive Office of the President, serves to advise the president on the impact of science and technology on the country.

UPDATE: The White House just sent out a press release confirming Kundra's appointment:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 5, 2009

President Obama Names Vivek Kundra Chief Information Officer

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama named Vivek Kundra the Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the White House.

The Federal Chief Information Officer directs the policy and strategic planning of federal information technology investments and is responsible for oversight of federal technology spending. The Federal CIO establishes and oversees enterprise architecture to ensure system interoperability and information sharing and ensure information security and privacy across the federal government. The CIO will also work closely with the Chief Technology Officer to advance the President’s technology agenda.

President Obama said, “Vivek Kundra will bring a depth of experience in the technology arena and a commitment to lowering the cost of government operations to this position. I have directed him to work to ensure that we are using the spirit of American innovation and the power of technology to improve performance and lower the cost of government operations. As Chief Information Officer, he will play a key role in making sure our government is running in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible.”

The following announcement was made today:

Vivek Kundra, Federal Chief Information Officer

Vivek Kundra formerly served in Mayor Fenty's cabinet as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for the District of Columbia, responsible for technology operations and strategy for 86 agencies. He has been recognized among the top 25 CTO's in the country and as the 2008 IT Executive of the Year for his pioneering work to drive transparency, engage citizens and lower the cost of government operations. Kundra is also recognized for his leadership in public safety communications, cyber security and IT portfolio management. Before Kundra came to the District, Governor Timothy M. Kaine appointed him Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the first dual cabinet role in the state's history. Kundra's diverse record also includes technology and public policy experience in private industry and academia. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia's Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership and holds a MS in Information Technology from the University of Maryland.

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