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Mon, Apr 20, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Obama names Indian-Americans as chief tech officers

STRIKE OUTS The president’s first picks for the jobs had to withdraw their nominations because difficulties caused by tax problems could have plagued the administration

AP , WASHINGTON

US President Barack Obama on Saturday selected two Indian-Americans to help streamline the federal government and cut costs.

Obama named Aneesh Chopra, the Harvard-educated secretary of technology for the state of Virginia, as the federal government’s first chief technology officer. Chopra, 36, will help reduce health care costs and foster cybersecurity.

“In this role, Aneesh will promote technological innovation to help achieve our most urgent priorities — from creating jobs and reducing health care costs to keeping our nation secure,” Obama said in his Saturday radio and Internet address.

Chopra’s corporate experience included working as managing director of the Advisory Board Company, a Washington-based health research company.

Another Indian-American, Vivek Kundra, will serve as chief information officer. Kundra is “responsible for setting technology policy across the government and using technology to improve security, ensure transparency and lower costs,” Obama said.

Kundra, 34, was chief technology officer for the city of Washington.

Obama also named Jeffrey Zients, a longtime management consultant, as chief performance officer. His selection comes after Obama’s first choice for the newly created position, Nancy Killefer, withdrew in February over tax problems. Zients, a founder and managing partner of the investment firm Portfolio Logic, will also serve as a deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

“With the leadership of these individuals, I am confident that we can break our bad habits, put an end to the mismanagement that has plagued our government and start living within our means again,” Obama said.

“That is how we will get our deficits under control and move from recovery to prosperity,” he said.

On Feb. 3, Killefer, a senior partner at McKinsey & Co, withdrew her candidacy to be chief performance officer, saying she didn’t want her mishandling of payroll taxes on her household help to become a distraction for the administration. Killefer was one of several Obama choices for top positions who have dealt with tax problems.

They included former Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who withdrew as a nominee for health and human services secretary amid controversy over his failure to pay all his taxes in the last two years until after his selection; and Timothy Geithner, the treasury secretary who had to pay more than US$34,000 in back taxes and interest on income he made while working for the IMF.

Zients has 20 years of business experience as a CEO, management consultant and entrepreneur. He has helped lead firms that provide performance benchmarks and best practices across a wide range of industries.

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