Cloud Security, Compliance Management, Privacy

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra steps down for Harvard post

Vivek Kundra, the nation's first-ever chief information officer, has announced that he plans to step down later this summer to take a position at Harvard University.

Kundra, 36, was appointed by President Obama in March 2009 to ensure that information security and privacy is properly implemented across the federal government. Kundra will assume his new post as a joint fellow at Harvard in mid-August.

In his new role, Kundra will split his time between the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a research program that is part of Harvard Law School, and the Shorenstein Center, part of the Harvard Kennedy School, a research institution dedicated to exploring press, politics and public policy.

At the Berkman Center, Kundra will carry out independent research and collaborate on projects related to cloud computing, open data and open government, according to a news release issued Thursday by the center. His research at the Shorenstein Center will focus on the implication of digital media and technology on governance.

“We are delighted that Vivek Kundra will be joining the Berkman Center community,” Urs Gasser, executive director of the Berkman Center, said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with him on cutting-edge issues where the complexities of cloud computing intersect with law, institutions, and data.”

In his role as federal CIO, Kundra has been responsible for overseeing federal technology spending, directing policy, planning for federal IT investments and overseeing government enterprise architecture.

Over the past two years, Kundra has worked on various IT projects, including ventures to streamline the federal government's use of IT technologies and to create a standard approach for assessing cloud computing services and products used by agencies. In May 2009, Kundra also launched, which serves as a repository for federal government information not deemed private or restricted.

“He has cracked down on wasteful IT spending, saved $3 billion in taxpayer dollars, moved the government to the cloud, strengthened the cybersecurity posture of the nation while making it more open, transparent, and participatory,” according to a statement released Thursday by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

No reason was given for his departure.

Vint Cerf, vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google, told in an email Thursday that Kundra excelled for the past two years in what has likely been a challenging job.

“I have the utmost respect for Vivek Kundra who came into government, defined the job of CIO and took major steps to motivate significant change in the use of advanced technology by the U.S. government,” Cerf said. “It takes a lot of time for change to occur, especially in government operations. He set some ambitious targets and motivated a good deal of creative thinking.”

Kundra's stint with the federal government was not entirely smooth, however. Just days after being appointed federal CIO, Kundra was placed on a paid leave of absence following an FBI raid of his former office that led to the arrest of former Washington, D.C. CSO Yusuf Acar on charges of bribery. Kundra was not a subject of the investigation.

Before joining the Obama administration, Kundra served as CTO in former District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty's cabinet.

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