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Interior hires former Education, Alaska CIO to lead technology office

The Interior Department is bringing back a familiar face to fill its chief information officer’s role.

Sources confirm Bill Vajda started March 4 as Interior’s top technology executive.

Bill Vajda started as the Interior Department’s CIO on March 4.

Vajda returns to the federal government after spending the last decade in state government, working as the CIO for Alaska from 2017 to 2018, before which he spent five years as the city manager for Marquette, Michigan.

He served as the Education Department’s CIO from 2006 to 2009 and held senior management positions at the National Security Agency, the IRS and the White House previously.

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Vajda replaces Sylvia Burns, who left in August to be the deputy CIO at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Burns served as the CIO of Interior for almost four years and previously worked for nearly 11 years.

Vajda becomes the first Interior CIO in the past three who hasn’t previously worked at the agency.

As the new CIO, Vajda has several challenges ahead of him. Interior’s IT budget for 2018 was $1.1 billion, and only 51 percent of projects were on budget and 77 percent of projects were on schedule, according to the latest data on the IT Dashboard. Interior reported to the dashboard that 63 percent of all projects are using agile or iterative development, but it’s still taking 588 days to complete a project.

Another big challenge will come under the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard. The 7th version issued by the House Oversight and Reform Committee in December showed Interior with grade of “C+” overall, but “Fs” in the data center and software licensing subcategories.

Vajda will have to decide on how to recompete Interior’s cloud email and collaboration contract awarded in 2012 to Onix for Google email and apps in the cloud. Interior released a request for information in November 2017 to begin the recompete process, but according to several vendors who track federal opportunities, nothing new has come out over the last year so it’s unclear as to the status of that effort. The current contract expires in 2019.

Interior also just released a sources sought notice for virtual data center and cloud and managed services, and will run on top of the cloud hosting services contract the agency awarded in 2013.

Cybersecurity will be another area where Vajda brings experience and faces a big challenge at Interior. While Burns made some progress, the agency’s inspector general has issued several reports detailing weaknesses.

In April 2018, the IG found Interior lacked an enterprisewide plan to detect and respond to cyber incidents.

Auditors and the CIO’s office also disagreed back in 2016 about the state of cybersecurity as it relates to the Homeland Security Department’s continuous diagnostics and mitigation program.

Interior received a “C” on its Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) score under FITARA scorecard.

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