President-elect Barack Obama names a chief performance officer? Yawn.

Sure, the move generated a fair amount of buzz last week (see story, Page 6), but nothing compared with the ongoing speculation and debates about Obama’s eventual appointment of a governmentwide chief technology officer.

The latest case in point: Inkling Public Marketplace has set up an online futures market to predict Obama’s choice for the job.

It works like this: Participants use virtual currency to buy stock in various candidates. The more stock bought in a given candidate, the higher price, which theoretically means the higher the odds that Obama will pick that candidate. A sell-off indicates falling odds.

Such an approach, designed to apply the expertise and insights of the public, has been proven to be accurate in presidential elections. If this market follows suit, Vivek Kundra, CTO for the District of Columbia, might have himself a new job.

As of Friday morning, Kundra led the field by a wide margin, with his stock valued at more than $27.

However, there might be a hitch. According to a report last week by the Silicon Valley Insider, sources on the transition team say they are looking for someone from their Left Coast territory. Their ideal candidate also would have a scientific background and a doctorate. Perhaps that accounts for the $10-plus drop Kundra experienced late in the week.

Still, Kundra’s stock is nearly triple that of his the nearest competitors, Julius Genachowski (a technology adviser to the transition team and former legal counsel at the Federal Communications Commission) and Vinton Cerf (Internet pioneer and Google exec), each hovering slightly above $9.

And the values fall off sharply after that. But for the record, here are some of the other candidates:

  • John Seely Brown (Deloitte Center for Edge Innovation) $4.98
  • Esther Dyson (high-tech visionary) $3.38
  • Sonal Shah (transition adviser) $3.00
  • Donald Gips (Level 3 Communications) $3.00
  • Ed Felten (Princeton University) $2.77
  • Bill Joy (co-founder, Sun Microsystems) $2.77
  • Lawrence Lessig (Stanford Law School) $2.26

We must add one small caveat, though: Although the site shows that more than 40,000 shares have been traded, it does not reveal how many people are actually taking part. Think of it as the wisdom of an unknown crowd.


Point of contact, SIR!!
About 160 Bush-appointed Defense Department officials could stay in place until their replacements actually report for duty. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has asked them to stay until they are relieved.

Political appointees normally resign when a new president takes office, but Gates is staying on indefinitely, and the Obama team let him decide whether to ask others to remain as well, according to media reports.

This kind of transition is called point of contact, insiders tell us. It’s sort of a grown-up game of tag. Played in uniform.

Can Social Security protect your privacy?
Everybody knows they should  closely safeguard their Social Security numbers. They are widely used in identity theft, a nine-digit Rosetta Stone that can unlock all your secrets.

But is the Social Security Administration itself able to safeguard your information? Ensuring the privacy and security of data that it provides to data exchange partners is one of several areas the Government Accountability Office said SSA needs to improve.

According to GAO, SSA performs more than 1 billion data exchange transactions annually to verify Social Security numbers for federal and state agencies. Because there are slightly more than 300 million Americans, it’s a good bet that yours, mine and your annoying cubicle neighbor’s are — or soon will be — among them.

Confusion centers
The Homeland Security Department is doing a better job than it used to in getting information to state and local fusion centers, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement, according to the DHS inspector general.

The fusion centers are supposed to combine information from multiple local, state and federal sources and build comprehensive views of possible terrorism-related or criminal activity. But DHS is still not consistently providing adequate and timely information, according to the IG.

DHS had not sent personnel to work in all of the centers either, with only 23 intelligence officers deployed among 58 centers as of April 2008.

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