Barack Obama is close to appointing his government IT guru, according to a report in Business Week, which says that the President-elect has narrowed the field to two candidates. Representing corporate America is Padmasree Warrior, the chief technology officer (CTO) of networking giant Cisco Systems ( CSCO), while Vivek Kundra, the CTO of Washington D.C., is touted as the public sector's leading candidate for the job. ( Photo gallery: Obama Takes Office) Both executives have strong credentials. Warrior, for example, is the former CTO at Motorola ( MOT), where she oversaw a $3.7 billion research and development budget, and a team of 24,000 engineers. Since joining Cisco in 2007, she has been heavily involved in the tech giant's internal restructuring, as well as fulfilling an IT evangelist's role, both inside and outside the company. Like the president elect, Warrior has strong links with Chicago, having served on the mayor's technology council, as well as on the boards of the city's Joffrey Ballet and Museum of Science and Technology. With Cisco aiming to cut its expenses for fiscal 2009 by more than $1 billion, now would not be a good time for the firm to lose its tech guru. The company's CEO John Chambers, for example, is a major advocate of Web 3.0 technologies such as social networking to foster innovation, boost productivity and reduce corporate travel. Chambers, however, is no stranger to the political world, and was even cited as a potential member of a John McCain cabinet, so is unlikely to stand in Warrior's way if she is selected.
Unsurprisingly, Warrior was unwilling to say too much about a possible move to D.C. when contacted by TheStreet.com. "I'd prefer not to comment on President-elect Obama's choice of chief technology officer for the administration," she said, in an email, adding that Cisco is committed to working closely with the Obama administration. In contrast to Warrior, Kundra's resume is split between work in both the public and private sectors. Prior to his appointment in 2007, Kundra worked as assistant secretary of commerce and technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the first dual cabinet role in the state's history. The University of Maryland graduate has also served as vice president of marketing for identity management specialist Evincible Software and as CEO of Creostar, where he advised clients in government and industry on IT governance and strategy. Like Warrior, Kundra is also comfortable in an ambassadorial role. During his time in Virginia, for example, he was credited with assembling the largest U.S. trade delegation ever to visit India, comprising more than one hundred business leaders, which resulted in $99 million worth of investment for the state. The District of Columbia did not respond to a request for comment Friday, and Obama's transition team refused to comment on the CTO's appointment. Speculation as to Obama's likely choice of tech czar has mounted in recent weeks, with a slew of names touted as possible government IT czars. The role came under the microscope again this week when Julius Genachowski, the favorite to become Obama's cabinet-level CTO, instead opted for the chairmanship of the FCC.
Whereas many of the names tossed around for the CTO's role have been tech sector rock stars, such as Google ( GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt, and Microsoft ( MSFT )'s Steve Ballmer, Obama has already recruited some lower profile tech mavens for his transition team. Sonal Shah, head of global development initiatives at Google.org, is part of the transition team's advisory board, as is Donald Gips, former group vice president at Internet specialist Level 3 Communications ( LVLT), who was recently appointed White House director of presidential personnel.