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NASA CIO Wynn to retire after 30 years in government

NASA chief information officer Renee Wynn is retiring after 30 years in government.

In an email sent to staff, which Federal News Network obtained, Wynn said she is leaving on March 31.

“This was not an easy decision as I really enjoy working with you as well as all the center CIO organizations,” Wynn wrote. “There are many reasons for deciding to leave this spring and the most compelling are for you and my family.”

Renee Wynn is retiring from federal service after 30 years.

Wynn said she doesn’t have any future plans at the moment.

Wynn is one of the longest serving departmental CIOs in government, having taken over the role in September 2015 and coming to NASA from the Environmental Protection Agency earlier that year. Before coming to NASA, Wynn spent 25 years at EPA where she served in several executive roles, including as acting CIO and deputy CIO.

During her tenure as NASA CIO, Wynn helped usher in major change and faced a series of uphill climbs.

Most recently, the NASA CIO received full control over agency IT people and spending. What Wynn called in October having “custody and control” of all IT across the space agency.

In the December 2019 Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard, NASA received a C+ grade, up from a D- six months earlier.

In her email to staff, Wynn said a new priority, the CIO Mission Support Future Architect Program (MAP) is well on the way to providing benefits across the agency.

The goal of MAP is to “integrate IT services across the agency into an enterprise architecture,” and “optimize mission support services by moving toward a more interdependent model and freeing up resources to re-invest in facilities, information technology and other capabilities necessary for achieving NASA’s ambitious mission goals,” according to NASA’s 2018 annual report on IT.

“Seldom does a federal CIO get the support from upper management to fully assess an organization and identify ways to make it better,” she wrote. “I think the benefits of MAP will be visible a few months after key decision point-C (KDP-C) with a total of two years to fully realize the benefits.   When I reflected on what I it would take, I couldn’t see myself being the one to navigate this and if I cannot give my best then I shouldn’t.  MAP will be successful with the leadership of [deputy CIO] Jeff [Seaton] and Janet [Watkins, the MAP program manager]!”

At the same time, Wynn struggled initially to get a hold of NASA’s cybersecurity, particularly in the mission areas.

NASA’s cybersecurity has improved in some areas. The most recent NASA inspector general report on the agency’s top management challenges said the agency continues to struggle with basic cyber hygiene like patch management and incident response.

“While NASA has taken steps to improve the agency’s overall security posture, including making progress in implementing cybersecurity initiatives and increasing security operations center (SOC) capabilities, its overall information security program struggles to adequately protect NASA data from cyberattacks,” the report states. “In 2019, for the fourth year in a row, NASA’s performance during our annual Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) review fell short of the standards set by the Office of Management and Budget for an effective cybersecurity program.”

Additionally, Wynn has been working over the last few years to help NASA get a better hold of its data. It is testing how artificial intelligence could solve the challenge of unstructured data.

It’s unclear who will replace Wynn, even on an interim basis. Seaton has been the deputy CIO since 2018 and previously was the CIO at NASA Langley Research Center.

NASA has an IT budget of $2.2 billion in fiscal 2020. According to the Federal IT Dashboard, in 2019 65% of NASA projects were on schedule and 74% were on budget.

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