Obama’s Kunundrum

Published on April 7th, 2009

By Rob Sanchez

Obama has made so many disastrous appointments it’s a tough call to determine which one is the worst. Certainly the nomination of Vivek Kundra for a new office of federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) should be at the top of the list. Kundra is such a questionable choice that Obama will be very lucky to remain unscathed by scandals connected with this man.

Vivek Kundra is a 34-year-old Indian American born in New Delhi. He became a naturalized citizen and worked his way into a job for the City of Washington, D.C. that is similar in job title and responsibilities to his new one under Obama. At first Obama’s choice seemed to be a winner but the rejoicing didn’t last long.

Kundra’s problems started on March 12th when the FBI raided his office as part of an investigation on corruption, bribery, favoritism, and the bid rigging of city contracts. He immediately took a leave of absence in order to take some heat off the Obama administration, but questions about what happened are still being raised.

The FBI was investigating Kundra in connection with two other foreign-born immigrants: Sushil Bansal and Yusuf Acar.

Bansal is an Indian national who is working in the U.S. on an H-1B visa. He is the CEO of Advanced Integrated Technologies Corporation (AITC) a company that outsources Washington, D.C. contracts to India. AITC’s classification as a minority-owned business was used to full advantage by Bansal in order to win lucrative city contracts. The FBI became interested in Bansal in part because he won double the number of contracts for the city at about the same time Kundra was appointed.

One of the most odious contracts AITC won was to provide computer support to the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. This dubious contract allowed a foreign national to have control and access to the DMV computer system, a privilege that would be a cherished prize for crooks or terrorists.

Bansal was arrested and ordered to surrender his passport. His temporary visa became a ticket to permanent residency for possible jail time.

Yusuf Acar, a native of Turkey, is the Chief Security Officer (CSO) for the District of Columbia, whose present visa status is unknown. His status as a foreign national from Turkey didn’t seem to raise anyone’s suspicions when he took a job that allows him to be in charge of security for the capital of the U.S. But it gets worse—he was also their Information Systems Security Officer. Acar reported to none other than Vivek Kundra. When Yusuf Acar was arrested and charged with bribery of a public official, money laundering, wire fraud, and conflict of interest, his connections with Kundra came under the microscope. Acar is currently in jail without bail because he is considered a flight risk.

Just a few days after having his office searched by FBI investigators, Vivek Kundra was back on the job. It took just five days after he took a leave of absence for President Barack Obama to reinstate him. Once again Kundra is in charge of planning our entire national IT infrastructure.

Obama’s quick reinstatement of Kundra is surprising considering that it’s far from clear whether Kundra will be criminally charged. Why would Obama risk taking a big political hit to keep Kundra on his staff?

In early March two powerful lobbying associations from India visited Washington, D.C. to schmooze with Obama officials and selected members of Congress. The mission of The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) was to insure that our politicians tow the line on the outsourcing of jobs to India and to increase the number of H-1B visas so that more Indian nationals can come to the U.S. to work.

NASSCOM and CII received ambiguous results on H-1B but they must have heard much better news when it comes to off shoring. Obama officials and perhaps some members of Congress pledged to continue to allow the off shoring of jobs to India.

Kundra is a key figure in D.C. that has a proven track record of offshoring jobs to India. Without a doubt he is a favorite son of these Indian organizations. It’s unlikely to be a coincidence that Kundra was reinstated when NASSCOM and CII visited the U.S. One thing for sure, there is far more to this story than we have heard so far, and hopefully as the days pass more of the truth will be uncovered.

Rob Sanchez is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), www.CAPSweb.org, and he can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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