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Home > News > Report

Gopal Khanna quits White House

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | September 02, 2005 19:49 IST

A leading Indian-American community activist has given up a prestigious assignment at the White House to accept a cabinet-level job in his native state.

Gopal Khanna resigned as Chief Financial Officer of the Executive Office of the President to be appointed Minnesota's first Chief Information Officer.

Khanna, 55, was the first high-level appointment of an Indian American in President George W Bush's second term in office. He resigned the post barely three months after taking over.

As state CIO, Khanna will report directly to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. The position, which pays $120,000 annually, was created to provide leadership for the state government's information and telecommunications technology resources and policies, as well as to have a member of the cabinet serve as principal technology advisor to the governor.

Khanna will lead the newly created Office of Enterprise Technology, with a budget of $83 million and a staff of over 300.

The Minnesota state government is estimated to spend $600 million per year on information technology through 66 different agencies; it manages 1,000 networks and operates over 500 web sites.

"The vision Governor Pawlenty has set before me is to improve government service through cost-effective use of technology," Khanna told rediff India Abroad. "I feel honored and humbled to have this opportunity to serve my state."

Before his brief White House stint, Khanna was first CIO and then Chief Financial Officer at the US Peace Corps in Washington, and is credited with leading major reforms at the agency. He was the point man behind efforts to transform the Peace Corps accounting and financial management systems, which allowed the agency to produce auditable financial statements in 2004 -- a first in the agency's 43-year history.

"I felt honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to serve my President and my country for the past three years. This opportunity to be part of the governor's cabinet and serve my home state is another huge privilege," Khanna said.

Pointing out that not many people get to serve the President of the country and the governor of their home state, Khanna said, "The governor is very serious about introducing major reforms."

Khanna is only the third Indian American, and the only one currently, to serve in a cabinet-level position in a state government. The others were Peter Somani who served as Health Administrator in the Ohio government several years ago, and United States Congressman Piyush 'Bobby' Jindal, who also served as Health Administrator in the Louisiana government about 10 years ago.

Joy Cherian, founder of the Indian American Forum for Political Education and the first Indian American to have held a sub-cabinet level position in the federal (Reagan) government, said Khanna's rise through the ranks was essentially because of his grass-roots activism, both in the community and the Republican Party. "So he had paid his dues, and then some," Cherian, Khanna's mentor and close friend, said.

Besides being a long-time community activist and one of the founders of the Association of Indians in America, Khanna is a staunch Republican.

Sources close to Khanna said he agonized over leaving the White House, and that family considerations weighed as heavily in the decision as did the opportunity to hold a cabinet-level position in his home state.

They said while he lived in Washington, DC, occupying a small studio apartment, his wife Anjali, his two children and his aging mother remained in Edina, Minnesota. "It was hard on his kids and his mother was also getting on in years. Both he and Anjali would be commuting on alternate weekends from Washington to Edina and vice versa. This wasn't easy financially too, because the government doesn't pay for travel for the family," one source said.

"He was thinking of bringing his family to Washington, but he decided against it because it was not feasible, financially and otherwise."

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Number of User Comments: 2

Sub: Gopla Khanna quites the White House !

"I felt honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to serve MY President and MY country for the past three years" (the capitalization of ...

Posted by Kalyanaraman S

Sub: Why are we making such a big deal!!

Why do we have to make such a big deal out of this. Mr. Gopal Khanna is just another US Citizen who is doing his ...

Posted by Hasnal



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