Vivek Kundra, first U.S. chief information officer, to leave position for Harvard

Vivek Kundra, the federal government’s first chief information officer, plans to leave his position in August for a fellowship with Harvard University, the White House announced Thursday.

Kundra, who had served in a similar role with the D.C. government, is one of several administration officials and West Wing staffers to leave government service for academia.

In a statement Thursday, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob J. Lew said Kundra helped the administration identify more than $3 billion in cost savings by transitioning more government services online and by launching a government-wide effort to merge or consolidate the use of computer data centers.

Kundra’s pending departure also comes as the administration’s e-government fund is slated to lose about two-thirds of its money to budget cuts. The fund finances some of the White House’s most ambitious government transparency projects. Under the cutbacks, sites launched in the past two years to track government performance and spending — and projects in Kundra’s portfolio — will be scrapped, curtailed or no longer updated.

At Harvard, Kundra will serve a joint fellowship at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. He said in the Harvard announcement that his research will emphasize the issues “that I dedicated myself to while serving as the federal CIO — in cutting waste, strengthening cyber security, and building an open and transparent government through technology.”

Alex Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center, said in the announcement that Kundra’s “extensive background in information technology, strategy and government operations will provide a valuable new lens through which to examine many of the important issues that the Center is committed to exploring.” 

Other White House officials headed to campuses are White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee, who is returning to the University of Chicago, and Katie Johnson, President Obama’s personal secretary, who is leaving to study at Harvard this fall. Some senior and mid-level officials at other Cabinet departments are also expected to depart soon, many because their academic tenures are at risk if they do not return to their posts.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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