Mathias to become the 8th CIO in last 7 years at HHS

Karl Mathias, the CIO for the U.S. Marshals Service since 2015, will join HHS as its CIO on March 14.

The Department of Health and Human Services is bringing in a familiar face to be its new chief information officer.

Karl Mathias, the CIO for the U.S. Marshals Service since 2015, will join on March 14, according to an internal email obtained by Federal News Network.

Karl Mathias is heading to HHS to be its new CIO.

“We are fortunate to have someone of Karl’s caliber take on the mantle of OCIO leadership, and I know he looks forward to hearing directly from all of you as he steps into this role,” wrote Cheryl Campbell, the HHS assistant secretary for administration in an email to staff.

Mathias replaces Perryn Ashmore, who was the last permanent CIO and retired in May. Since Ashmore left, Janet Vogel was acting CIO until she retired in December and then Dr. George Chambers has been acting for the last few months.

Chambers will return to his original role of executive director of the Office of Application and Platform Solutions.

In coming to HHS, Mathias also becomes the eighth permanent or acting CIO in the past seven years. The lack of stability in the CIO role has been troubling to many current and formal employees, who say it’s having a real impact on the agency’s ability to modernize.

HHS received a “B” under the latest Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard, with a lot of work still needing to be done around cybersecurity and the transition to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) program. HHS also received a “Partial” score for its CIO reporting to the agency head or their deputy.

“CIOs that do not report to the head of the agency weakens their ability to effectively manage IT,” the House Oversight and Reform Committee said about this category in general. “Given the history of federal IT failures, this is a concern.”

Mathias inherits an HHS technology organization with the third largest budget among civilian agencies. For the fiscal 2022 request, the White House said HHS requested more than $6.9 billion, which is up from $6.4 billion requested in 2021 and almost $1.5 billion more than the 2020 request.

HHS updated its IT strategic plan in 2021, detailing five goals to modernize, secure and enhance business and mission systems.

“The expanding capabilities of IT creates a dynamic where the IT organization no longer solely supports the mission but is part of the mission that shapes the enterprise strategy,” the agency stated in the plan. “As the IT organization’s role changes, it increasingly focuses on service orchestration via platform-as-a-service (PaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) technologies, in addition to service delivery. These shifts come with new governance responsibilities as well as new customer and partner expectations. Increasingly, IT organizations facilitate collaboration across the enterprise and drive agility, cost savings, interoperability and flexible solutions that IT leaders tailor to various mission needs.”

As the Marshals Service’s CIO since 2015, Mathias has created a disciplined process to bring more applications and systems into the cloud. He has invested time and energy into creating an IT investment governance process as well as ensuring there is room for innovation and new technology.

As of last fall, the Marshals Service has about 60% of all applications in a cloud instance, whether SaaS or IaaS.

One of his big successes over the last five or six years is that his office has worked with the mission side to put applications like the warrant tracking system, the prisoner operations system and several others in the cloud.

Before coming to the Marshals Service, Mathias served in the Air Force until he retired in 1993 and then took civilian jobs serving as an analyst, engineer and program manager on the Joint Surveillance System, the NORAD Battle Management System, combat simulations at the Air Force Wargaming Institute, and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Enterprise Business System.

He also was an assistant professor at the Air Force Institute of Technology and a military advisor to the Ministry of Defense and Aviation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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