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Dvorak Raises Doubts About U.S. CIO Kundra. White House Calls the Report "Highly Inaccurate" & "a Lie." Kundra Speaks up

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Updated: Earlier this morning, veteran technology journalist John Dvorak posted an article on his blog with the headline: Is U.S. Chief Information Officer (CIO) Vivek Kundra a Phony? The report investigates Kundra’s background — both educational and professional — and finds some gaps. For instance, Dvorak couldn’t find any records of Kundra’s Masters degree in information technology. Update: Chip Cassano, a University of Maryland University College spokesman, confirmed that Kundra graduated from the school with a Masters of Science in Information Systems Management. There are several other issues — you are better off reading the entire article.

It is quite a shocker: I recently chatted with Kundra about cloud computing. I reached out to the White House and a spokesperson dismissed the article as “a gross smear” on Kundra and called it “highly inaccurate.” The spokesperson said that Kundra has excelled at his job as the U.S. CIO.

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. “If you are going to make such charges, make sure you call us and take the time to educate yourself,” said the spokesperson. “It is a lie.”

Dvorak is just flat-out wrong — or at least 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. As noted above, we checked with the UMUC and they told us that Kundra did indeed graduate in 2001 with an MS in information Systems Management. When I asked Kundra about his startup, 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.

111 Responses to “Dvorak Raises Doubts About U.S. CIO Kundra. White House Calls the Report "Highly Inaccurate" & "a Lie." Kundra Speaks up”

  1. @com strip blogger, my disclosures: I’m Indian.

    there, I have that out of the way now let me respond. Dvorak brings up a couple interesting points and inaccuracies that I’m surprised about. The supposed “vetting” process by the Obama team was pretty intense and ran some 50+ pages.

    I can’t speak for the UMD college system, but I’m sure there is a difference between getting a degree from the main campus at College Park vs University Park. I went to Indiana University-Bloomington and getting a business degree from one of the “extension campuses” was not held in the same regard as the main Bloomington campus.

    Having said that, both Vivek and Aneesh have a window of 9 months to get things going and show that their jobs have some relevancy.

    • Jeff Terry

      You’re right. As a hiring manager, I’m now going to stop putting resumes into my “A” pile from graduates of the real business world who go to extended campus locations while working full time 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 mommy and daddy to pay for college while he drinks and parties over a four year period and just barely passes Calculus because grades “aren’t really that important, dude…”

      Thank you for clarifying the importance of a prestigious school’s degree. OBTW, Comp Sci degrees have a shelf life of about two years on average, so your 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. Sorry.

      • Jeff,

        If you’re hiring now (what with the economy and all) and your company is anywhere near east central Alabama, hello. I’m a 22 year old college drop out who has never taken a sip of alcohol and writes PHP code for fun. If I sound like your kind of candidate – i.e. someone who actually does a tech job because I like it instead of just for the money – reply and I’ll stick an email address out here.

        Seriously, all any college degree these days does in the first place is tell the interviewer two things:

        How much disposable income you have.
        How much help you really need to change a light bulb.

        Just saying, a college degree means nothing. As far as the story at hand, I don’t care where he got his degree from. I don’t even care that he has one. What I want to know is what part of TCP/IP he invented or which contributions to the Linux Kernel the man wrote? I can understand the argument that he needs to be a good manager, but there are plenty of geeks who are ALSO good managers, and I think those are the ones we should be looking for, not just a good manager who thinks twitter is cute. I don’t care if he got his degree from the University of Timbuktu, if the man can’t write AT LEAST a basic “Hello world” in SOME language (I’m not picky, JAVA, C, PHP, anything!) WITHOUT a manual then he is not qualified. Hiring this guy is like hiring someone for Attorney General who has never actually tried a case in his life. (Well…except we actually did that under dubya, but that was to be expected under dubya.) Or like hiring a Secretary of the Department of Energy who genuinely does not understand how solar power works and is receiving monthly cash payouts from Exxon. (Ok, another bad example, dubya did that too…)

        To put it simply, a good salesman doesn’t just know how to sell, he knows his product. Appointing this guy would be like hiring last year’s top Avon rep to run a Ford dealership. If they don’t know the difference between a V6 and a V8 they’re not going to sell any cars, no matter how much hand lotion they sold last year.

  2. Just from a rhetorical standpoint … When someone starts an article with an accusation guised in a question, that’s always a red flag for me. For example, “Is so-and-so a phony?” really means “So-and-so is a phony.”

    If Dvorak is going to make these accusations, he should just state it plainly, not make innuendo.

  3. Kundra’s a nobody & not qualified for the CIO job. are you really surprised? can BO find a better candidate…probably. i’m sure he’s a solid Democrat who raised some money for the POTUS. it’s the Chicago way.

  4. Dvorak likes to stir the pot. His article maybe meant to stir controversy but is this guy really qualified for the U.S. CIO post is the real questions. When I read about his appointment in the SJ Merc. I was astonished of his lack of exp. and qualifications for the post. There are 100s of people just in Silicon Valley more qualified.

  5. Om,
    you got to read this excerpt

    Call me cynic but read below or hit the link

    “Last fall, GCN had covered how the city of D.C. had contracted Google Apps licenses for 38,000 users, for a contract worth about $500,000 a year.

    Kundra explained that going with Google Apps could cut the cost of procuring enterprise software while at the same time making it easier for the D.C. employee to interact with coworkers. “Why should I spend millions on enterprise apps when I can do it at one-tenth cost and 10 times the speed? It’s a win-win for me,” he has been quoted as saying.”

    Is there a link between Him and OBAMA and Google ?


    Corruption Investigation
    On March 12, 2009, FBI raided Kundra’s former office, the Office of Chief Technology Officer, in Washington, D.C as part of a corruption investigation. One of the employees, Yusuf Acar was arrested. A contractor for the office, Sushil Bansal, was also arrested.msnbc: Feds: Obama appointee not a target(March 12, 2009)5 Washington Post: D.C. Official, Contractor Arrested in Bribery Sting (March 12, 2009)6 Later in the day, an anonymous government official said to reporters that Kundra is on leave until the investigation is concluded. A spokesperson for the mayor of Washington, Adrian Fenty, said Kundra is not a target in the investigation.Bloomberg: Obama Appointee on Leave After Ex-Employee Arrested (March 12, 2009)1

  7. Sanjay D

    Dvorak wasted an hour of many people’s time this morning with his racially-motivated (see the innuendos in picture… Shenoy is no “indian bigwig”) and birther-inspired rant.

    I for one paid attention because it referred a one-person founder calling himself a CEO, which I once was, and suggesting once must write the name of campus — I graduated from University of California, and use it without campus sometimes — and someone getting smeared despite every bit on their official bio is factually verified by others.

    Now it all seems just a bunch of baloney. What a waste!!

    I’d love to see the claim the CIO spent millions of dollars on a website supported with factual basis. Then Dvorak can enjoy writing for his groupies who believe “all Indians hype their credentials”. Now I understand better why Sanjay Gupta might have turned down the cabinet post.

  8. Wow. I am so disappointed to see people bring ethnicity into the discussion about Kundra and Om’s coverage of him. That is so racist and unprofessional. Om covers the technology sector and the Kundra story certainly is pertinent. To say that Om is defending Kundra because of shared ethnicity (and the assumption of shared ethnicity may not even be factual) is just so racist. Since when is it “defending” someone to give them the opportunity to respond to a serious accusation?

    • I totally agree, Om covering Vivek is relevant , bring the ethnicity out of this topic.

      Also Om was right about John jumping the gun on Vivek’s degree,
      but look at what this guys has done ? virtually no experience.

      I am curious to know what he did at SAIC ? that is a DC based consulting company.
      I might see if I know anyone who worked there.

    • conundrum

      Agreed. If we want to bring race into this, an argument could be made that Dvorak is a racist old white guy who is attacking the CIO because of his race. That’s clearly not the case, however.

    • Idisagree. His credentials appear to be legit and his competence will be apparent or not over time. I very much doubt that Obama would hire or tolerate an incompetent person on his team, or he never would have been elected in the first place.

      • Wow, Wow,
        the guy passed out in 2001 , and become a CIO of the government of only super power in the world in 2009.

        With questionable experience in between 2001 and 2009 , I am not sure what in the heck he has done to shatter the glass ceiling at age 34 !!!!

    • On that link..seems 2 inaccuracies..he did not get BS till 98 and MS was not from College Park.. This fellow must be special..because in Silicon Valley people from top 10 univs with MS in CS hardly become Lead Engg or something in established companies with 6-7 yrs of experience..great to see this guy becoming CIO for probably biggest organization..

    • That archive entry says

      Kundra, Vivek
      Information Systems Management
      BS, University of Maryland, College Park, 1997
      MS, University of Maryland, College Park, 2001

      Even UMUC would rather their staff be from the other UM?

    • In John A Arkansawyer’s link it says he got his graduate degree from College Park, not University Park, so again there is something a little sketchy going on.

      Regardless, the main question is whether this guy is qualified, and it’s hard to see how he is.

  9. oh well,
    This guy is totally unqualified. He passed in 2001 , doesn’t have much experience .
    While John jumped the gun on the MS degree, but was spot on with the rest of the allegations.
    Being a US CIO overseeing the IT operations of OMB and all the other agencies is not a task for a guy who took six years to pass his degree. And who has less than 8 years of experience , most of which is totally questionable.
    In that eight year time he was also teaching. I doubt he managed any big teams , or has a feel for how complex a CIO’s job will be.

    I am not sure why folks went after Sarah Palin on her experience but not this questionable guy.

    Apart from understanding the Federal IT policies ( he should know FEA , NIST standards) he should be familiar with OMB, Budgeting and the overall existing systems architecture before he talks about twitter or Google.

    To me he looks like a phony guy with no real experience. He is cashing the proximity to DC area and his MS degree to get the plum job.

      • Wrong answer, Rachel.

        Folks questioned Palin’s credentials based on the position she was gunning for. It’s only fair to do the same with Kunra relevant to, well, his being CIO of the entire U.S. of A. Of all people, readers here know how important this could turn out to be for the entire nation in terms of tech progress.

  10. Carcarius

    It certainly looks like Dvorak should have gone a little farther to confirm Kundra’s academic credentials. However, let’s not forget the service Dvorak is doing: calling into question a suspicious object. If there is any doubt about credentials of someone in such an important post, there should be people questioning and researching. Let’s face it UMCP and UMUC are very different colleges with different standing in the academic community. I don’t think Dvorak was lying or trying to disparage Kundra, but rather try to get to the bottom of his suspicion. He just didn’t go far enough with the item of his academic credentials. It’s still highly possible that Kundra inflated his credentials.

    One thing Dvorak is right about is questioning the $18M website. Why so expensive? The government couldn’t get a better deal? Maybe the people who work out the government healthcare deals, the healthcare for our beloved senators, congressmen, and government workers, should be in charge of managing the costs of building this website.

    • Ian Gallagher

      Amazing… In the UK, we all know that University College at Oxford is part of the Oxford system. Same holds true for both Jesus and Trinity Colleges. The university system, founded well before you Yanks got your footing in the world of academia, was designed to incorporate several colleges under a university system (thus the term “university” and not just “college”).

      Same holds true for our friends at Cambridge, consisting of several university colleges within the university system of Cambridge (check for yourself).

      By indicting the U of M University College as sub-par or anything less that a legitimate college, one would assume you are assailing the reputation of the entire University of Maryland as a whole. At least that’s the way we view it from our perspective on academics here in the UK. Does the quality of education in the American collegiate system really degrade so dramatically from one school to the next? I always thought Americans somehow prided themselves in the quality of college-level academics… Thoughts?

      • Ian,

        The short answer is that America quit really educating people in the 1950’s. Ever since that time, unless you’re an Ivy League graduate, you basically had a set of professors spit a large volume of facts at you and then hand you a multiple choice test and get a piece of paper called a degree if at least 70% of those facts stuck. That’s the American educational system at every level these days. Critical thinking? Logic? Reasoning? The ability to figure things out for yourself? Seldom is any of that taught here any more. The US educational system now serves one purpose: to be sure you are ready to produce a certain minimum amount of bitchwork upon graduation. We no longer create an informed citizenry, merely one which is capable of doing work and living paycheck to paycheck.

        I am 22 now, I am a computer geek and have been since the age of 4, and I live 2 blocks from the campus of both one of the most prestigious universities and for that matter, one of the select few to go heavy into computing as early as the late 70’s. That said, I still wish I had been born in the 20’s and died in the 50’s, because though my life would be short and I would have no contact with computers at all, I would have lived and died in a time when people weren’t so damn stupid because the intelligent survived, not the brutes.

        Anyhow, glad I could inform you. We would have been much better off had we lost the revolutionary war, I’m afraid.

    • Carcarius

      Exactly… two very different schools with different academic standing. They were less than truthful indicating which university he actually received his degree from.

    • Jesse Kopelman

      A sin? It’s not like one campus is accredited and the other isn’t. We are talking about a professional-oriented degree here, not an academic-oriented one. Since he didn’t earn it until 2001, I’m guessing there was some gap between college and grad school and lifestyle factors played a bigger role than the best school he could get into, when deciding on campus choice. I got a masters degree from a satellite campus and it certainly wasn’t the best school I could have gotten into, but I wanted to keep my job while attending. Also, he has significant professional and academic experience, post degree. As long as it is an accredited degree, why should it matter where it came from?

      • Usually Named

        “As long as it is an accredited degree, why should it matter where it came from?”

        Yes, if he was trying to make it look like he got it from a more prestigious campus.

      • Jeff Terry

        Not like he was claiming to have graduated from Harvard or Yale… Is University of Maryland UC less prestigious than University of Maryland-CP? I mean, how much of a difference would it be? Does one get more horsepower on one’s resume when omitting the UC bit? Both appear to be accredited schools.

  11. Certainly there appears to be confusion on the colleges. However I think it’s interesting @gigaom jumped all over this to defend him so quickly. Could it be to ensure future opportunities to interview him and other Obama officials. Obama is notorious for killing access for those that don’t pander to him.

    • Jesse Kopelman

      Obama is notorious? Try every Politician, Celebrity, and Major Executive, are notorious for killing access for those that don’t pander to them. Obama is very business as usual in almost every way, why do people insist on painting him as some sort of radical?

      • He schedules who gets to ask him questions in press conferences and has even known the questions in advance as was the case with a Huffington Post reporter. Bush and previous presidents have never “handled” the press in this way.

    • You must be referring to Bush I, because Bush II was notorious for excluding journalists who disagreed with him politically or religiously. Journalists allowed to attend press conferences were only allowed to ask questions from a pre-approved list generated by the White House — the journalists themselves didn’t even get to pick the questions to ask. Hell, even after his presidency ended, Bush II continued to block journalists from accessing his records or staff.

      • #nelson3748

        jorge, bush could not choose which journalists are in the press corp, you have no idea what you are talking about. calling yourself the CEO of a one person co is a laugh, those of you are defending this guy need to get your perspective straight, he is a joke

    • Jeff Terry

      What’s the confusion on the colleges? Did the fact that he got a degree from UMUC mean that he didn’t get a complete education? What’s at issue here? Should everyone who graduates from the UMUC campus go out of his or her way to make note of the fact that they didn’t sit in UMD classes on the other side of the College Park campus, paying tuition to the same University system in the same location, same course content, etc.? What gives? Dvorak is silly…

  12. Anonymous

    From George O’Leary trying to get hired by Notre Dame to Vivek Kundra not making sure that he was bullet proof while going through the confirmation process (is CIO a confirmable or appointable position?), the issue of fraud is not really the point. The real point is “puffing.” He clearly has a Master’s but from which UofM? Now we know, the less prestigious one. I teach IP Law at UCLA, but it’s UCLA-Extension (clearly less impressive than teaching at UCLA Law School). If he’s going to play in the big leagues like the role of CIO for the White House, then the White House has to help him get his CV spotless w/o this sort of spin job ruining his credibility. This is not a new issue. Both the White House Staff and Vivek Kundra share equally in any blame to make sure this doesn’t happen. That doesn’t mean that Dvorak hasn’t also puked up his story. He should get censured by his “blog.” Whoops that’s the problem — it’s a blog and it doesn’t really matter that much if he’s wrong or took a short cut or performed shoddy investigative journalism. He just smeared somebody and won’t really get slapped himself. New times for sure in the world of real time journalism.

  13. Dvorak goes off halfcocked a lot, but he makes his indignation fun most of the time, and transparent that he’s having fun.

    This is just plain (almost wrote “palin”) nonsense.

    The difference between a journalist and someone who’s simply typing out their ass is simple: a journalist picks up the phone to make a call. Or 10. Or whatever’s needed for accuracy. Doing online searches isn’t the same as reporting.

  14. @Om, I’ve never even met the guy (Kundra) and by reading the report I could tell it was a smear-job. Your original post has changed dramatically into what it reads now. You referred to the Dvorak post, then said that resume-fraud is prevalent, and did nothing to point out any of the undocumented holes in the Dvorak report. I’m not a reporter and even I could point them out.

    For example, he accused him of having 1 employee but called himself CEO. That’s what all 1-person founders call themself. Later in his post, he says something about Kundra having falsely claimed to make millions, but Kundra’s bio never said that. It just said he’s CEO. You didn’t catch that either.

    And the degree-verification, please that is a serious accusation and will take more than a web search like Dvorak did. Reprinting it without pointing out it’s lack of verifications is as bad as posting it. Take a cue from Wikipedia.

    Again, your current post is dramatically different, in text, angle, and context, from your first.

  15. electricdave

    I’ve never liked Dvorak’s writings. I’m not saying anything about truth in government, just saying I can’t stand his writing. He just sounds like the guy in my company always crying wolf but never getting anything done.

  16. @Nuyawk,

    I’m not sure what you’re implying, but please reread my comments as I did not in any way make disparaging comments about Vivek Kundra or anyone else in particular for that matter. I simply noted that academic and career fraud is prevalent in the valley. I also suggest you read the commentary on Dvorak’s blog more clearly as I didn’t comment and usually don’t when unconfirmed accusations are made by anyone on the web.


  17. alright, so Chip Cassano from University of Maryland University has confirmed that Vivek Kundra has MS in IT but about other accusations of Dvorak: that Vivek has no publications, no achievements in science or business that his company was one-person company only.

    Finally: Om, please disclose that you are of the same ethnic origins of Kundra and that’s why you are defending him! Otherwise you are not better than Dvorak (which has similar ethnic origins as meself = Slavic).

    • I’m confused. How is “He was the only employee of his company” an “accusation”? I’m the only employee of my company. Does that mean the past two years of my life aren’t worth mentioning on my resume? Should I change my job title from “Founder” to “Only person working here”?

      Instead of an accusation, it’s more like a low blow. Dvorak seems to be making fun of Kundra for trying to start a business on his own.

    • @com strip blogger…. I am not sure how to respond to you. My ethnic origins are in my name – i don’t need to hide behind a name like “comic strip blogger”

      Secondly, in your world, asking someone to respond to a story is called “defending” I get that.

      • Om, your ethnic origins are NOT in your name, just do google search like “malik” and you will see that this name is used also in Poland – a Slavic country. I also knew personally Polish people with this name. So, just to avoid any misunderstandings you should state something like “Disclaimer: author of this post is of the same ethnicity as Vivek, so some (involuntary) bias towards Vivek might be possible.”

        No, asking somebody to respond is not defending. However as I said: reading your texts that have something to do with India, I have a feeling that you are slightly biased, even if it is involuntarily.

        By the way: boss of FCC has Polish name but he is not Polish, so don’t tell me about “my origins are in my name”.

    • Venkatesh

      @comic strip blogger
      Wow , then every blogger in US should disclose their “nationality” or “race” before writing about any topic under the sun. You are slime ball. Picture of three white goverment officials doesn’t mean they got job because of their racial connection..

      @OM, don’t even engage or respond to this racist slimeball .

      • @Venkatesh : *you* are racist because you think that Vivek is better – cannot be criticized – just because he is Indian. I am not a racist, I’ve only pointed out that Om is not objective whenever he writes about Indian people or companies.

        @Om : you see it now? No wonder some companies prefer to hire Europeans because they will not be calling anybody who dares to crticize their work a “racist”. And Om, do you, yes you Om, *really* think that Vivek is competent enough to be CIO of the whole USA?

      • COMIC,
        stop is please , will ya
        or else this thing will turns to TRAGIC.

        There are two issues here , one is whether this guy has a degree or not , the second one is whether he is qualified or not.

        Om was defending on the fact that Vivek does indeed has a MASTERS degree.
        And there is nothing wrong with defending that.

        I am with John Dvorak on the qualification part. Personally I think he is not qualified. but used his degree , proximity to D.C and democratic connections to get that job.

      • “Comic Strip Blogger” is probably not a “racist slimeball,” just being silly.

        When did ethnic origins become relevant to a story that has no racial angle? Sure, maybe if you’re pontificating on the Gates-Boston cop story, but nothing Om wrote here warrants adding a so-called disclaimer. He didn’t even appear to be defending Kundra.

        Maybe next time a writer of Syrian origins is reporting on Steve Jobs, he should add a disclaimer!

  18. digiphile

    Thank you for doing the due diligence of simply calling him, Om. I shared Dvorak’s post but did so with the hope that journalists would debunk or verify the accusations he made with regards to credentials. Now, Gautham Nadesh at NextGov as done so, posting the facts of his academic record:

    The rest of Dvorak’s post consist of more opinion than specific data points. I suspect the rest of it will be dissected thoroughly in real-time as well.

    • @Om,

      Good to know, as I noted previously, the accusations should be investigated thoroughly. I am not in any way implying that Kundra has committed any sort of fraud, though fraud in the valley does exist.


      • Please. Almost everyone who read this and the Dvorak blog went to town on him without giving it a second thought. Amazing how willing people are to smear someone’s reputation. I felt like I was reading something out of the National Enquirer. And Om should have picked up on some of the silliness and scorn in the original post when re-printing it.

  19. I thought the article was terribly sourced and speculative. U Maryland has several college campuses and the author could have used degree-verification from the wrong one, though the degree question is a very important question. The rest, though, is silly… Dvorak claims Kundra can’t call himself CEO of a company when he was the only employee?! And Kundra did a great job in DC. Who cares if he likes Twitter? (which Dvorak criticizes). It was a smear post.

    • Jeff Terry

      I attended the UMUC graduation ceremony at the Comcast Center on the College Park campus. Maryland students everywhere in College Park–hard to say who’s a UMUC student and who’s a UMD student. Everyone lives in the same proximity to campus. Tuition costs are the same. They’re all pretty much Maryland students.

      Someone had better tell all of the students attending the University of Maryland’s University College they are not in the University of Maryland college system… At least it would appear that John C. Dvorak says they are not… ;-)

      • @Om/Carolyn,

        The article is quite shocking indeed. Not sure what to make of the findings, though academic and career fraud is prevalent not only in the US, but throughout the valley in particular. (Disclosure… my wife is a search executive for VP and above level talent). My hope is that the accusations are investigated thoroughly. Either way, this could be a serious “black eye” for the new role of US CIO.