Is US CIO Vivek Kundra a Phony?
Copyright by John C. Dvorak

UPDATE

Is US Chief Information Officer (CIO) Vivek Kundra a Phony?

This is the sort of question you might ask after trying to actually verify his supposed MS in Information Technology from the University of Maryland, College Park campus. The registrar has no record of it. After initially posting this article the degree has cropped up apparently at the nearby University Campus in 2001. This was found by Nextgov.Com. But his degree in biology has yet to appear as his record shows a degree from College Park Campus for Psychology and nothing more.

I have queried the White House for clarification and still have received no response. The internet has answered the MS question. But other issues remain. Regarding a number of interesting and questionable facts, most in regard to Kundra’s bio. The most ridiculous is his assertion that he was formerly a CEO of Creostar. While records for this company are hard to come by a small Dun & Bradstreet service did turn up the following information: there was indeed a Creostar in Arlington, VA. It was founded in 2004 with the contact being Vivek Kundra. The last record for the company (online) showed sales of $67,000 with one employee – apparently Kundra, the CEO.

vivek1s


Click to enlarge

In fact the only job that I could find within the various Kundra bios was that of a Sales Manager and/or a VP of Marketing at a software firm called Envincible. It was sold in 2004, the same time Kundra set up Creostar. Envincible was a small security software company that sold to Exostar. Note how Kundra used a similar name with Creostar.

Most revealing is a bio of Kundra that was redacted from the Washington, DC municipal site. Luckily it was archived by the web sweeper Archive.org. In that bio Kundra added even more icing to his University of Maryland career saying he “served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland, teaching classes on emerging and disruptive technologies.”

In a conversation he had with Om Malik he confirms having a teaching job at the University College. I have not verified it, but it’s probably true.

On that old bio he also said he “was with SAIC, providing consulting services at the Health and Human Services (HHS). His work focused on growing SAIC’s $1billion business at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Kundra has worked on the World Cities Alliance initiative to advance business and economic development in Arlington, Zurich, Paris, Berlin, and Wales. Within the private sector, he worked with multiple clients to build operations in the United States, Canada, and India.”

He finishes with “He received his master’s in information technology and his bachelor’s in psychology and biology from the University of Maryland.” The biology bachelor’s comes and goes from his bio, but the University has no record of his biology degree either.

I first suspected something was fishy about this fellow by listening to him on CSPAN where he simply did not sound like someone who studied computers or technology. His common referrals to Twitter and Google Docs as some sort of high-tech breakthroughs and a way to save money and empower the public stemmed from pure cornball pop culture and the blogosphere, not from computer science or Information technology.

During one of his testimonies before a Congressional committee he even talked about the future being something like the Star Trek holodeck. His clichés and commentary was that of a 18 year-old blogger who just got their first Macintosh.

And his sketchy background was disconcerting. It included a 1997 bust for stealing shirts from JC Penny’s and the later bust of his former staff by the FBI at the DC office during a bribery investigation.

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.gov 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.

Picture actually taken Nov. 2008 after the election. [photo removed by request of JD Kathuria. Can be viewed here.]

The emergence of Kundra is something that needs more research. There is some indication that Kundra got his jobs in Virginia after being recommended by Aneesh Chopra another professional bureaucrat in Virginia who was apparently his friend from campaign work. On one blog there is a pic of Chopra and Kundra at a boxing match with Indian bigwig Shudkaer Shenoy. The photo was taken in 2008 before either of the two men began with the Obama administration. Since then Chopra was given the job as USA Chief Technology Office (CTO).

It would be logical to assume that Kundra managed to get his buddy Chopra the CTO job despite the fact that Chopra’s technology background is essentially nil.

According to the Chopra bio he’s really never done much outside of government committee work. His academic background shows a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1997. He graduated with a B.A. from The Johns Hopkins University in 1994. There is virtually nothing about him anywhere on the net. He has zero technology background except for perhaps using an iPOD, and he is now the country’s Chief Technology Officer.

This seems to be a team of self promoters working together. But exactly how they can be given these jobs along with responsibility for actual technology decisions that involve billions of US taxpayer dollars is incredible. And if Kundra has indeed pumped up his bio with BS, then what does that say about the Obama administration in general. After all, this guy was highly promoted by Obama himself.

But who is noticing? While the country is focused on health care protests and other distractions, this sort of betrayal of the public trust must be going on at many levels. I just happened to spot this and with the help of some researchers, namely John Stec, we quickly dug up these anomalies while they were still on the Web. Where was the mainstream media? Where was the right wing media? Is anyone doing due diligence on these important appointees holding the purse-strings to billions? Apparently not.

This lack of oversight in the public interest doesn’t get any better when you look to the technology community itself. You’d think they would be able to spot a phony a mile away. Nobody seemed to notice. In fact the opposite was true as many tech mavens gushed over both men. But why? They each have little to show except odd bragging about supposed improvements to this and that. It’s all vague. Where are the documents? The papers? The reports? They both apparently show up at a lot of meetings and conferences. I have to assume they are quite the charmers.

Look at this excerpt from the USA Today announcement for Aneesh Chopra:

“The response to Chopra is resoundingly positive. Craig Newmark (of Craig’s List) says Chopra is ‘really good for the country.’ Eric Schmidt said in a statement (via WSJ ), ‘Aneesh built one of the best technology platforms in government in the state of Virginia.’ John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins said (also via WSJ ), ‘Aneesh is an inspired appointment. His smarts and experience in technology, health care and investing will serve us well.’ Tim O’Reilly is ga-ga over the choice calling Chopra ‘a rock star’ and says, ‘We couldn’t do better.’”

Really? We couldn’t do any better?

Or do all these guys just think that Obama can do no wrong? O’Reilly, a publisher of books about computer programming, in particular, went into a euphoric fugue with a laundry list of rationales, all clichéd and dubious including classic fuzzy-headed groupthink nonsense such as: “Chopra grasps the power of open source software, Web 2.0, user-participation, and why it’s better to harness the ingenuity of a developer community than to specify complete top-down solutions.”

OK. Am I supposed to down a whiskey now? On his website O’Reilly admits that Chopra is very charismatic.

I hope there is some real explanation for what is going on here. I hope the University of Maryland can find Kundra’s records and show he taught there. I hope he has a biology degree from Maryland. And I hope Kundra can produce some records for his CEO tenure at Creostar indicating that it became a multimillion dollar company that was somehow ignored by Hoovers and D&B once it became successful. I hope the both of these men are not just drinking buddies taking advantage of dummies. I hope.

We did uncover the MS from a related campus with a different record keeping system. That’s a start.

–end

Further details of this investigation will be found there and will be discussed in great detail on the No Agenda Podcast with co-host Adam Curry. No Agenda can be found at http://noagenda.mevio.com and http://noagenda.squarespace.com as well as http://cagematch.dvorak.org.

Speaking requests regarding this story will be accepted by email to john@dvorak.org.




  1. Dave Torneau says:

    John C.

    Again, you’re right on the facts. As a hiring manager, I’m now going to stop putting resumes into my “A” pile from graduates who work full time and go to extended campus locations while working and paying the bills for their own education. These people are clearly far less qualified than a 22 year old traditional college graduate who gets his parents to pay for college while he enjoys the privilege of a four year degree and just barely passes Calculus since grades, “aren’t really that important, dude…” (a shout out to all my friends who remember). Those who haven’t attended a serious in-resident university just don’t have the substance that it takes to get a job done. Graduates of Cal, for example–as you cited on TWiT–are a much better breed of American and are true intellectuals, while Berkeley’s extended campus grads are not. Time to stop letting extended campus grads get a place at the table.

    Thank you for once again clarifying the importance of a prestigious school’s degree. The second class people in this country need to be put in their place. Besides, Comp Sci degrees have a shelf life of about two years on average, so a prestigious graduate’s degree will be worth nada and he’ll probably have to go back to night school like Vivek to earn a more current degree anyway. Oh well…

  2. Omar says:

    Dave Torneau, so you know that Vivek worked and put himself through school? You know what his GPA was and how well he did in calc?

    I actually do, went to school with him, got high with him, skipped classes with him, failed a CRAP load of exams with him and did everything you would expect college kids to do. But that doesn’t fit into your mirage of him being a hard working, self supporting kid who made it big, huh?

  3. aaron says:

    What’s the big deal? No one was interested in Obama’s education credentials either beyond right wing “the editor of Harvard Law Review” never published a single word”

  4. Dave Torneau says:

    Omar, I am simply stating a fact: no longer will I even look at a resume from an applicant who holds an extended campus degree. They’re usually just veterans from underclass families seeking a second chance at life. Or worse, they’re people coming from marginal upbringing–people who don’t deserve a college education. The world needs its ditch-diggers, too.

    It’s time for America to wake up and indict these fraudsters once and for all. You simply prove what I’m saying here, Omar. You say you got high and cut classes with him… Thank you for making my point. :)

  5. Aaron Marshall says:

    Did I hear Dvorak say on *This Week in Tech* that people in the Bay Area are claiming they went to “Cow”? And that they shouldn’t because he went to “Cow”? Should he have gone to chicken instead?

    Those California universities… People from all over the state attending the “University of California,” but only one branch campus gets to call itself “Cal”? Shouldn’t the one closest to Sacramento — the state capitol — get that distinction? I mean, what the heck’s up with that?

  6. Omar says:

    Aaron Marshall

    Its always the flagship campus (usually the most prestigious academically as well) that gets to go by simply the U of Wherever. The other campuses are usually smaller, lesser campuses. They have smaller budgets so usually can’t offer the research facilities that all the top professors are looking for.

    That’s why University of Maryland, University College is considered way down the ladder compared to University Maryland, College Park.

  7. LD says:

    I can’t figure out if Dave Torneau is serious or not. He sounds just too much like a farce to be sure.

    I guess I should establish myself. I was an undergrad at MIT and have two master’s degrees from CMU, and I was fulltime at both places. I guess that legitimizes myself in Dave Torneau’s eyes for what that is worth.

    I have been a hiring manager one place or another for about 15 years. Some of my best employees had no college degrees at all. Some had PhDs. Some had only undergraduate degrees. Their success had to do with them, not their degrees usually, though a degree from a tough school can be an indication of how hard someone is willing to work.

    That all said, I am just wondering if anyone is going to note here that Dvorak’s accusations have been discounted for the most part (http://fcw.com/blogs/alinea/2009/08/covering-kundra-resume.aspx and http://gigaom.com/2009/08/12/dvorak-raises-doubts-about-us-cio-vivek-kundra/). You can stay on this if you like, but you’d be better off evaluating the job Kundra is doing. I have met him a couple times now, and he is intense and charismatic. I don’t agree with some of what he is trying to do, but I understand why he is trying to do it. The IT Dashboard (http://it.usaspending.gov/) all of you conspiracy theorists plenty of ammunition to shoot at the federal IT managers. All of you people supporting transparency should love it.

    I am impressed that someone so young and with so little experience working in a huge organization can be accomplishing so much so fast. Let’s watch and see how he does. Help him if you feel like it. Lay off his resume. The fight is over, and it was never that interesting.

    LD

  8. Dave Torneau says:

    Yep. I just attempting to get Omar irritated. That’s all. ;-) And it worked. :-))

  9. techie says:

    Dvorak is an idiot. He wants some hardcore “tech phd” to be CIO and understand how to work the government and get things done in that bureaucratic environment. These Dvorak type guys sit around in their boxers in their homes bored out of their mind and write negative bullshit all the time that does absolutely no good for anyone. Vivek is a great balance of someone that understands politics, government, and technology and is a big advocate of moving the government to a place where technology is better utilized and will eventually save tons of money. Give Vivek and Aneesh a chance and judge them after 4 yrs. If Dvorack is so hellbent on how Vivek is a phony, then what has the previous round of tech executives in the govt. accomplished over the last 20yrs?

  10. computerchik says:

    #96, 104, 109, 113, 140, etc. commenting that UMUC is not the same as UM College Park:

    While the campus is different and may be considered less prestigious, the diploma that degree recipients from all UM campuses most likely does not list the campus the graduate attended on the degree. It likely says “University of Maryland”, not “University of Maryland University College”. The University of Tennessee makes no distinction between the main campus (Knoxville) and other campuses (whether it be Chattanooga, Martin, Tullahoma, or Memphis) upon conferral of the degree. While many academics may consider it misleading not to mention the specific campus of the university an individual attended, the degree holder is not falsely representing themselves if their own diploma, granted by the institution itself, does not make distinction as to the campus attended.

    Hope that helps to clarify for you!

  11. netman says:

    Mr. Dvorak. thansk for shedding light on the fraud Kundra…not only a convicted thief but nothing between the ears. He could not be effective as Dc gov cio. It all staged…no way he could start a company….all smoke and mirrors. This is purely a political appt. He is a fast talker bu when pressed, he folds as he really does not know S***. We hope the media picks this up and gets fully exposed for what he is – A HUGH FRAUD.

  12. Academic Fraud at a New Jersey State University

    1998: A ten-year “no-show” New Jersey City University (NJCU) professor is reported to the New Jersey Inspector General (confirmed in 2001*)

    1999: NJCU President Carlos Hernandez’s use of fraudulent academic credentials of confirmed* by the New Jersey Commission of Higher Education (CHE).

    2000: President Hernandez and NJCU Professor Yaworsky are appointed to the Governor’s Education Commission (both have used fraudulent academic credentials).

    2001: Star-Ledger columnist Mulshine writes four columns* about fraud at NJCU.

    2006: The CHE for the second time confirms* that President Hernandez used a fraudulent academic degree.

    2007: The NJCU Board of Trustees hires a former New Jersey Deputy Attorney General and assigns him to work in President Hernandez’s Office.

    2007: The New Jersey Attorney General charges me with having violated the civil rights of one of my colleagues (who had married a 12-year-old child while conducting “research”) The NJCU Union refuses to defend me against this charge (which was clearly initiated by President Hernandez).

    2008: The CHE writes a third letter* acknowledging that President Hernandez used fraudulent academic credentials.

    2008: A $10,000 reward is promised to anyone who can provide evidence that President Hernandez did not commit fraud to become NJCU’s president (this offer is still good).

    2008: President Hernandez hires “Ethics Point” enabling NJCU employees to submit evidence of fraud at NJCU – any such reports are sent to, and evaluated by, President Hernandez.

    2008: Due to a hostile work environment, I retire in July 2008.

    2008: The NJCU Board of Trustees passes a resolution* expressing the opinion that “fraud isn’t fraud – unless the NJCU Board of Trustees says that it is.”

    2009: Star-Ledger education reporter, Bob Braun, finally (after ten years) admits* that President Hernandez used a non-existent academic degree to become NJCU’s president.

    2009: The NJ Attorney General continues to investigate me because I had objected to a 40-year-old colleague for having “married” his 12-year-old research subject.

    2010: Both NJCU President Hernendez and NJCU Professor Yaworsky are still members of the Governor’s Education Commission (see NJCU’s web-site). Governor Corzine refused to remove them; what Governor Christie will do remains to be seen. (Yaworsky has used up his “sick leave” while having lived for the past three years in Colorado — and when he does teach, he teaches “on-line” from Colorado.)

    * Original documents available upon request (see below)

    To review the outline for the book (or article) being prepared on this subject: Google: “Fraud at New Jersey City University”

    To read a story (August 2009) dealing with my being investigated by the NJ Attorney General: Google: “Kenneth Good” then “Images of Kenneth Good” then the picture of Good and his bride.

  13. d21 says:

    I worked for Kundra during his rather short stint as Director of Network Services for the Arlington Co. Gov’t. He’s not a technical guy, reminded me more of a Dilbert sort of office. Lots of buzzwords but not a lot of substance. I’m not saying he was a bad manager though, we successfully launched some big initiatives.

    He’s just the typical ladder-climbing bureaucrat looking to get in with the “elite crowd”. Seems it worked. I can’t comment on his college stuff though. It’s amazing how fast he’s moved up though…

  14. Sushil says:

    Hats off to you sir,

    With this post I am really thankyou Mr Kundra for their sincere efforts. I really feel proud.

    Regards
    Sushil Parashar

  15. I have several bogus degrees. The degree I’m most proud of is the one for Professional Baseball Referee which was conveyed upon me by Perkins School for the Deaf and Blind. This is the school that Helen Keller attended.

  16. JDMeister says:

    I’ve seen all of the phony degrees I need to.. A fake is a fake.. What do they say? Cash talks, BS walks? I hired a guy with more paperwork than a government loan app. Turns out, he worked in the training center and stole all the paper.. He didn’t know squat.. Some things never change..

    JD

  17. mesothelioma attorney says:

    Obama promised transparency in his government…if Dvorak found something amiss, I’d THINK that Obama would welcome this, and so would his cabinet and appointees. I find the whole “rush to criticize Dvorak” to be insanely stupid and childlike. He was calling crap when he saw it..and it turns out the IT resume was tweaked (i.e. lied, misled, and inflated). Haven’t we all had enough of this bullshit?
    Hello…bank fiascos, economy crash, dot com bust, lying government, institutions screwing us, predatory corporations…..it’s all based on lying and pushing the other guy aside to get yours.
    So, one guy says “hey, something is amiss” and you jump all over him instead of looking deeper and saying “yeah, let’s use our bigger brains here” and do some real thinking.
    Dvorak wasn’t just voicing his opinion. Too bad all you’re doing is voicing apologies, excuses, and justifications. Our country is in a sorry state….

  18. judaic says:

    When we look back at the Obama tenure, we would see that all were phonies. Only we won’t get the chance. Obama would become the Fidel Castro of (New Madrid Fault Line ripped) US.

  19. i might not have supposed this was handy two or three years back then again its crazy precisely how time alters the manner in which you experience diverse creative ideas, many thanks with regard to the write-up it is actually pleasing to look over anything intelligent occasionally in lieu of the basic garbage mascarading as blogs on the internet

  20. What’s genuinely concerning about the Tories (so they say) not knowing that Andy Coulson was still being paid by News International (read; spy for Murdoch) when he was hired by David Cameron to work at No 10 Downing Street is that he could have been being paid by anybody, Russia, Iran, um, Labour, anybody at all! Aren’t these people supposed to be securely vetted before they can work adjacent to a high-level security environment? It would be nice to see that absurd stuffed shirt Cameron get some serious criticism over this but beyond that it’s just not funny…

  21. Dvorak is an idiot. He wants some hardcore “tech phd” to be CIO and understand how to work the government and get things done in that bureaucratic environment. These Dvorak type guys sit around in their boxers in their homes bored out of their mind and write negative bullshit all the time that does absolutely no good for anyone. Vivek is a great balance of someone that understands politics, government, and technology and is a big advocate of moving the government to a place where technology is better utilized and will eventually save tons of money. Give Vivek and Aneesh a chance and judge them after 4 yrs. If Dvorack is so hellbent on how Vivek is a phony, then what has the previous round of tech executives in the govt. accomplished over the last 20yrs?

  22. Corporate Monopolies and Greed got you down? I just listened to a really cool song about Occupy Wall Street. You should check it out and share it to get the message out. Thanks and remember we are the 99%

  23. Robin Kundra says:

    All I can say is that because of these reports, I am considering retreiving the k dropped from the end of my name as too Czech. I do see a coalescence of disturbing circumstances.

  24. Don Chairez says:

    Great research.

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