When it comes to digital modernization, the need to be competitive is constant

Former Homeland Security chief information officer Karen Evans expects digital innovation to continue in the government as those behind the wheel never take the...

Karen Evans, the former chief information officer at the Department of Homeland Security, has been at the heart of high-level federal government IT decisions for nearly two decades.

“I was the CIO at DOE when they elevated that position to a direct report to the secretary,” Evans said on Federal Monthly Insights – Digital Modernization: Automation month. “Then I had the opportunity to go on to the [Bush] administration and look at, in essence now, the CIO for the federal government as a whole, and then come back into DHS. The role of the CIO really is now at the maturity of what I think everybody had hoped or envisioned it could be, as the strategic adviser, really looking at it as a risk management officer, really analyzing the mission of the department and how do you infuse new technologies while you’re looking at all the risks across the board.”

Evans arrived at the Energy Department in 2002, when 9/11 was in the forefront of everyone’s mind.

“Through the evolution of this, you’re really looking at everything now. Because every component, every type of thing that anybody wants to use, like industrial Internet of Things,” Evans said on Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “There is no real perimeter that those traditional types of security models work around anymore from an information security perspective … We really did embrace it at DHS, was really looking at technology, not distinguishing between Information Technology and Operational Technology, but looking at how technology is strategically used in the department.”

As CIO, Evans was responsible for including security and infrastructure, among other things, to support the DHS mission. Now with a new administration, that mission continues, she said.

“It’s in statute and it’s near and dear to everyone in the department,” Evans said. “I have no no doubt that the incoming administration will also see the value of being competitive with private industry and getting the right people in for cybersecurity jobs.”

Evans said she had a “partner with the lines of business folks at DHS.” In fact, she called it “a great partnership.” She commends management for creating that kind of environment.

“One major accomplishment was dealing with the financial management system. One of the biggest things that happened during my tenure was bringing up the Transportation Security Administration on a modernized financial management system. I mean, that was so exciting, like watching all the different iterations of how to get a modernized financial management system with the components, so that occurred in partnership with the CFO’s office, Evans said.

Evans expected “new” and “innovative” ways to continue in the federal government that will help keep them competitive with the private sector because those behind the wheel of digital modernization never take their foot off the gas.

Another thing Evans said to keep an eye on is the DHS Cybersecurity Talent Management Service (CTMS). “That is being done jointly with the chief human capital officer … to recruit cybersecurity personnel throughout the department. And so that is going to be really exciting, and that’s on the horizon. So I’m given a big plug for that, because we will be competitive with private industry with that one.” Evans said.

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