FBI raids Kundra’s former office

The spotlight just turned up a notch for Vivek Kundra, President Barack Obama’s choice for the newly created position of federal CIO for the United States.

Kundra had previously been serving as Washington D.C.’s CTO, before being named to the new federal CIO post last week.

According to published reports, the FBI raided the Washington, D.C. CTO office Thursday morning as part of a bribery investigation.

The FBI has arrested two staffers in the office on bribery charges.

Reuters is reporting that the FBI is not focusing on Kundra as part of what is described as an ongoing FBI operation.

While new federal CIO Vivek Kundra gave a speech here Thursday morning on his vision for the U.S. government’s use of technology, the FBI conducted a search of the District of Columbia’s IT offices – where Kundra worked until last week – and arrested an employee and another person who works for an outsourcing vendor, according to published reports.

There was no indication that Kundra was connected in any way to the FBI’s raid, which was part of a bribery sting operation. And if Kundra was aware of what was going on at his former offices or concerned about the raid, it wasn’t evident during his speech at

President Barack Obama last week appointed Kundra to be the federal government’s first official CIO. Prior to taking that job, Kundra was the District of Columbia’s chief technology officer.

An FBI spokeswoman Thursday declined to confirm the reported arrests.

Such arrests of municipal employees on charges of financial malfeasance are a relatively routine news item in Washington.

The most recent case, which came to light in 2007, involved the alleged looting of more than US$20 million by employees in the District of Columbia’s tax department over a decade-long period, despite a $100 million IT investment designed to improve tax-collection operations.

The development of the new tax system, which became fully operational in 2002, predated Kundra’s hiring as the District’s CTO.

Of Kundra’s appointment to the CIO post, Obama said in a statement that he has directed Kundra “to work to ensure that we are using the spirit of American innovation and the power of technology to improve performance and lower the cost of government operations. As chief information officer, he will play a key role in making sure our government is running in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible.”

Kundra is known in IT leadership circles for a willingness to try new technologies; for instance, he rolled out Google Apps to 38,000 people in his D.C. post.

At the FOSE 2009, a trade show focused on government IT, Kundra told attendees that in his new role as federal CIO, he is “embarking on a technology revolution in government.” But much of his talk to an audience of government workers and federal IT vendors was a morale-boosting rally.

For instance, Kundra promised to undo the image of the federal government as a laggard in technology adoption and innovation. “We can be thought leaders when it comes to innovation,” he said.

Kundra promised to hold voluntary open-door sessions on weekends for federal IT workers who want to share their views on “high-level” technology issues. He said that he has been “amazed” by the IT talent he is finding within the government, and that some of “the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life are federal government employees.”

But, Kundra added, federal IT workers have been restrained in the past, having been “taught that the best way to survive is to not take any risks.”

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