Copyright by John C. Dvorak
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.