People are talking… Vivek Kundra: He’s back…

Tuesday - 3/17/2009, 6:46pm EDT

I’ve been able to confirm what TechPresident first reported: Obama administration CIO Vivek Kundra is back at his job.

It is a huge relieve to many people in the government IT community, who formal appointment just weeks ago — yes, really — was largely welcomed.

Of course, Kundra’s temporary departure was one of the big events over the past week — while I was under the weather — was the saga of Kundra, the 34-year-old government IT rising star who was just appointed to be the Obama administration’s CIO to much hope.

I was getting a lot of calls and e-mails from people quite upset about the Kundra situation — and there was a lot of concern that the White House somehow wasn’t going to stand by the newly appointed federal CIO.

There was this earlier post by TechPresident.com’s Micah Sifry, that captured the sentiment:

No system of governance can repeal the coarser parts of human nature, and no matter how transparent or innovative we make government, we are undoubtedly going to still have scandals. Indeed, given how much the Obama Administration is staking on new transparency measures, like the detailed online reporting systems being planned for Recovery.gov, the more we’re probably going to hear about waste, fraud and abuse in government contracting.

President Obama is promising that local citizens will be able to track whether a particular government grant that was supposed to create X jobs actually produces, and to report back on Recovery.gov to hold everyone accountable for those results. In effect, the Obama Administration is on a collision course with business as usual, and the results are bound to be messy. But that’s no reason for the Administration to back away from its plans. Until last Thursday, those plans clearly included putting Kundra in charge of a major overhaul in how government uses data and technology to become more open, efficient and accountable. Every day that he is not allowed to do his job is another day the Administration loses in being able to fulfill its ambitious and worthwhile promises to make government more transparent. Unless there is evidence that Kundra was somehow involved in or responsible for Acar’s alleged crimes–and it appears there is none–his leave ought to be ended as soon as possible.

I didn’t expect Kundra was tied to the FBI investigation of the DC CTO office. After all, Kundra has a security clearance, and the FBI conducts that investigation. If the FBI signed off on Kundra yet he was on FBI investigation — I didn’t buy it.

Consultant David Stephenson, who worked with Kundra at the DC CTO’s office, is betting that the transparency will come out as part of Kundra’s transparency initiative.

I don’t know anything more than you do about the investigation, but if anyone wants to set up a prediction market, I’ll be you dollars-to-donuts that when the truth comes out, it will show that the FBI was tipped off precisely because of policies and proceduresVivek set up immediately after he took office in early 2007.

I found it interesting that both FCW and ComputerWorld wrote stories suggesting that Kundra’s days were numbered largely because people were almost questioning his managerial experience. It’s curious because while I was at FCW — and ComputerWorld , for that matter — have had to deal with significant personnel issues. Can somebody conclude that those issues reflected on my managerial abilities while I was the editor of Federal Computer Week? Or did ComputerWorld’s issues reflect on that publication’s respected editor Don Tennant?

My assumption, of course, would be no, it doesn’t.

In general, we create systems to allow people to accomplish their missions. Bad people find ways to do things. We put measures in place to ensure that we have checks and balances, but things happen. Bad people can be crafty if they want to be.

All of that being said, we may not have yet seen the end of Kundra questions. Word out just today Kundra pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge in 1996 — when he was 21-years-old, the Associated Press is reporting. (When he was 21? Really?)