“Inside the Reporter’s Notebook,” is a bi-weekly dispatch of news and information you may have missed or that slipped through the cracks at conferences, hearings and the like.
This is neither a column nor commentary — it’s news tidbits, strongly sourced buzz and other items of interest that have happened or are happening in the federal IT and acquisition communities.
As always, I encourage you to submit ideas, suggestions, and, of course, news to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Government and industry sources confirm Gardner is slated to become the new chief information officer at FEMA.
Sources say McCormack, who currently is the Justice Department CIO, is strongly rumored to be the next DHS CIO. It’s not a done deal, but it’s very close and could be announced in the next few weeks, multiple source say.
Gardner has been the NASA Goddard Space Center CIO since January 2010. Before that, he was the CIO at the National Weather Service.
A FEMA spokesman would not confirm Gardner’s hiring and said there were no personnel announcements at this time.
But multiple sources say Gardner notified his staff at Goddard earlier this week that he was moving on to FEMA. Multiple emails to Gardner also were not answered.
He will replace Jeanne Etzel, who left to work for the Homeland Security Department’s CIO’s office in March.
In moving to FEMA, Gardner will take on a much bigger budget and portfolio of IT investments. According to the federal IT Dashboard, FEMA has 20 major IT investments worth more than $90 million. FEMA’s biggest program is the $36.8 million investment in infrastructure maintenance. The total spending on IT this year is about $148 million.
McCormack left DHS as the Immigration and Custom Enforcement directorate CIO to take the Justice CIO job in February 2012.
McCormack would replace Richard Spires , who left amid controversy in May.
A former fed who landed in the private sector is Bruce McConnell, who left his second stint in government in July after spending more than four years in an assortment of senior cybersecurity positions at DHS. He joined the EastWest Institute Sept. 9 as a senior vice president.
The institute said in a release that McConnell will lead efforts to promote cooperation in cyberspace, including governance and development issues. He also will lead EWI’s efforts to improve its private-public sector relationships.
While Gardner, McConnell and possibly McCormack are finding new homes, several long-time federal employees called it a career.
The National Institute of Health’s Mary Armstead retired after 40 years in government. Armstead was the acting associate director of the Office of Acquisition Management and Policy at NIH. She ran the governmentwide technology contracts, including CIO-SP3, and other acquisition programs.
She spent most of her career in the acquisition or acquisition management field, starting as a clerk typist in the 1973 and moving through the ranks to senior management positions.
Armstead said she is undecided what her future will include, but she imagines she will remain active in the federal community.
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Michael Wood joined Armstead in retiring after a long career in government. The former Recovery Board executive director retired in August after more than 39 years of service.
Ross Bezark, Wood’s former chief of staff, replaces him as executive director of the Recovery Board. Bezark also was the executive director of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board (GATB) and worked with the U.S. Marshals service.
Wood plans to launch his own firm to consult with government and industry about data standards, information sharing and transparency issues.
NASA is way behind on implementing Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 and using the smart identity cards to log on to computer networks. In fact, NASA was going to fall well short of its commitment to the Office of Management and Budget to have 20 percent of all workers using their smart ID cards for logical access by Sept. 30, according to government sources.
So new CIO Larry Sweet told OMB the space agency would reach 10 percent by Sept. 30, 20 percent by Dec. 31 and 50 percent by the end of fiscal 2014.
According to NASA’s HSPD-12 report from June 2013, more than 18,000 employees have smart ID cards and fewer than 500 still need them. The report doesn’t include use of the smart cards for physical or logical access, however.
Each NASA center is facing its own challenges to implement HSPD-12. For example, the Kennedy Space Center is implementing hard disk encryption and logical access using HSPD-12 cards. The Jet Propulsion Lab faced a lawsuit over HSPD-12 by scientists who didn’t want to go through the background checks, which delayed implementation.
Ames Research Center also fell behind, causing its CIO, Jerry Davis, to issue a memo, obtained by SpaceRef.com, requiring 10 percent of all users to log on to the computer network using the smart ID cards starting Sept. 18.
Ames’ goal is to have 10 percent of all Windows 7 users to use their smart ID cards by Sept. 30, just more than 200 employees.
Sources say Ames’s biggest challenge is about half the staff uses Apple Mac computers, and the other half uses PCs running Windows.
Five former high-ranking Defense Department technology officials with more than 40 years of experience are advocating to Congress to follow through with their plans to merge the CIO and deputy chief management officer.
Senate lawmakers included a provision in the fiscal 2014 Defense Authorization bill to change the make-up of both positions.
Duane Andrews and Art Money, both former assistant secretary of Defense for command, control and communications, John Grimes, former Defense CIO and assistant secretary of Defense for network information and integration, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Albert Edmonds, former of director of the Defense Systems Information Agency and command, control, communications and computers for the Joint Staff, and retired-Marines Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, former Senate Armed Services Committee staff director, wrote to House and Senate Armed Services committee leaders in July encouraging them to strengthen the DoD’s CIO role with this proposed merger.
“Today most knowledgeable observers conclude that the current DoD network environment is an overly complex layering of networks upon networks with overlapping and duplicative systems, operated by different combatant commands, services and agencies under differing policies,” the letter stated. “We believe this situation not only demands a strengthened CIO, but a CIO who is permitted to use existing Title 40 statutory authorities, enhanced internal authorities and DISA to implement across the department improved efficiency, effectiveness and security through the Joint Information Environment (JIE).”
The DoD CIO Teri Takai is leading the effort to develop the JIE, and bringing the other services on has been going slowly. A true test of her authority will be how the services react to Takai’s memo mandating all of the DoD move to DISA’s enterprise email service in the cloud.
But her lack of authority is a major reason why the five former DoD IT officials believe this change needs to happen.
The Defense IT experts say in their letter that the CIO needs to be empowered to drive transformational change and improve both business operations and warfighting mission needs.
This issue of merging and empowering the DoD CIO has been the subject of much debate over the last 30 years. The authors of the letter say multiple attempts to improve management of DoD technology and systems have failed.
The letter stated the CIO lacks of stature because it is no longer a Senate- confirmed position. DoD removed the assistant secretary of Defense for network information and integration in 2012.
“The department is now considering moving the CIO position back under the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, where many are concerned that its ability to provide effective, departmentwide leadership and direction needed to effectively meet the information challenge will be further diminished as one more element in an already huge portfolio,” the letter stated. “As was the case in 1989, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics remains a weapons system acquisition culture, which is not focused on operations and encumbered by acquisition methods not well suited for IT.”
The CIO came under the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics from 1984 to 1989 before being moved to report directly to the secretary of Defense.
The public stance on this issue by these former DoD officials is both bold and unusual because taking on the Pentagon’s ingrained culture is hardly done and never easy. It also presents the growing concern in industry and the federal community about how moving the CIO’s role under the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics would potentially gut the position.
ACT-IAC’s Shared Services Forum offered both a feeling of Déjà vu and optimism for shared services. Many of the challenges talked about- culture change, leadership from the top, funding-are the same ones from 2003 when OMB launched the Lines of Business initiatives for human resources, grants and financial management. But at the same time, there seems to be a growing acceptance.
One of the most interesting examples is the Interior Business Center receiving interest from several customers asking, what other services can they use to process human resources functions?
A couple of other interesting tidbits that showed shared services is taking hold more broadly.
Commerce CIO Simon Szykman is consolidating help desks in headquarters from as many as seven down to one. This is part of the agency’s commodity IT consolidation and shared services effort where bureaus are volunteering to provide cloud or data center or other services to the rest of the department.
Szykman said Commerce also will soon make an award to a federal center of excellence to reduce the number of financial systems from six to one.
DHS CFO Peggy Sherry didn’t explicitly mention the often-troubled departmentwide financial management systems consolidation effort, but did offer hints around what they are looking for in the long term.
She said DHS wants integration across all financial systems in order to understand its data and make better decisions.
That’s a common problem for Commerce as well. Szykman said bureaus lack clear baselines of spending and fiscal commitments.
Additionally, the Labor Department is planning a solicitation to move its financial management system out of a commercial cloud, current run by GCE. Jim Taylor, Labor’s CFO, said a requirements analysis should be finished in the next week or so, and the RFP should follow in a few months.
Next week revs up with an assortment of interesting events and hearings. I’m moderating a discussion on big data with Postal Service IG data guru Bryan Jones at the Predictive Analytics World conference in Washington. The Association of Government Accountants holds its annual conference on internal control and fraud prevention on Monday and Tuesday. Among those scheduled to speak are the Government Accountability Office’s Beryl Davis will talk about the Green Book update, and Mike Wetklow, chief of the Accountability Performance Branch in OMB. I’ll also be at the Air Force Associations’ Annual Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Monday at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland. There’s a host of interesting speakers throughout the week, including Air Force Gen. Michael Basla,, the service’s CIO, Gen. William Shelton, the commander of the Air Force Space Command, and acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning.