(NOTE – Om Malik spoke to Kundra personally and it is clear that Dvorak’s piece was badly sourced and flat-out wrong. scroll down to the updates)
This is pretty disturbing – John Dvorak has done some digging into the background of Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as Chief Information Officer of the United States, and found that he may have faked his master’s degree and professional experience. It should be noted that Kundra is in charge of $18 million dollars to launch the Recovery.gov website. As Dvorak argues,
But, to be honest about it, and despite the possible fraudulent bios and non-existent degrees, the kicker for me was that even if he was squeaky clean he has no business being the USA CIO controlling billions and billions of dollars in government contracts.
He hasn’t done anything to warrant this appointment. There are no great policy papers. There are no books. There is no invention. There is nothing but vague tech positions in city and state governments. How does this make him a “techno-whiz” as he was portrayed by the New York Times? It took him six years to get a simple undergrad degree in psychology! Was it just because he uses Facebook and likes Twitter?
So what have we got so far from this person? Well, for starters we are looking at the Recovery.org website that will cost the taxpayers around $18 million. This news was released recently. What websites costs $18 million? And that’s with no warrantee.
The incredibly popular Digg.com, one of the most advanced news gathering sites in the world was initially coded from scratch for between $1200-2500 according to one of its founders. Tools to develop fancy websites have improved drastically over the years and now it costs less for fancy sites, not more. So where is the $18 million going? I can assure you that people who pay attention bugged out their eyeballs at a website expense of $18 million.
This is a pretty serious embarassment if true. I hope it isn’t true but the evidence Dvorak has compiled is pretty startling. Government transparency, ethics, and fiscal prudence are all ideals to which President Obama has vowed to adhere by in his administration, so this needs to be addressed immediately. I am willing to forgive if Kundra managed to scam the Administration, but am not willing to tolerate a coverup or denial here. Either Kundra prove his qualifications or he resign, or be fired. NOW.
Read Dvorak’s full article for more details. It should be noted that the Tech community also seemed to have failed it’s duty here, with even industry leaders like Tim O’Reilly gushing with generic praise over Kundra in the media. Clearly there was a failure of due diligence by the Administration and the private sector. If one scam artist managed to get in the door, surely others did too.
UPDATE: The White House has reacted, calling Dvorak’s report “highly inaccurate” – after inquiry, technology journalist Om Malik got the following reply:
I reached out to the White House and a spokesperson dismissed the article as “a gross smear” on Kundra and called it “highly inaccurate.”
According to the spokesperson, the doubts might have arisen from the fact that Kundra went to University of Maryland’s University College instead of College Park. Those are two different colleges within the University of Maryland system. The spokesperson said that Kundra has excelled at his job as the US CIO.
Also, missing from Dvorak’s piece is the fact that Kundra was the Chief Technology Officer for the City of Washington, D.C. prior to appointment as US CIO. The link is to an article on the work he did in eliminating wasteful programs by using a “stock market analogy” to departmental initiatives. Om also interviewed Kundra about cloud computing a while back, so you can judge for yourself how experienced Kundra seems to be about technology issues.
UPDATE 2 – Om spoke to Kundra personally, and also spoke with people at the University of Maryland, and states that Dvorak is just plain wrong.
Dvorak is just flat out wrong – that was the gist of the conversation I just had with Kundra. He called back and said that it was clear that “someone was spinning partial truths.” He welcomed anyone to check with University of Maryland’s University College and said they will find that not only did he graduate from the University College, but also that he was adjunct faculty member. He was an undergraduate at the University of Maryland’s College Park location. That confusion is reflected on Kundra’s Wikipedia bio.. We checked with the UMUC and they told us that Kundra did indeed get graduate in 2001 with an MS in information Systems Management. When I asked Kundra about his start-up, Creostar, he said he never claimed it to be a billion dollar company. He started it before getting a gig with the commonwealth of Virginia.
At this point it clearly seems Kundra is vindicated and Dvorak needs to issue a retraction and apologize.
Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with Kundra knows he is qualified and doing a great job. Can’t say the same for Dvorak.
Ouch. I see that Dvorak has made some edits to his piece but seems to be holding his ground for now.
FINAL UPDATE: In response to this post, Beliefnet has received an official statement from Kenneth Baer, OMB spokesman:
“This is a total fabrication and gross distortion of Vivek Kundra’s record. Vivek received his Master’s degree from the University of Maryland-University College, worked in the private sector, and had a distinguished career as a public servant before joining the Obama Administration.”
Related – discussion of Recovery.gov’s $18 million price tag at Slashdot.