NSF CIO Northcutt dies

Amy Northcutt, the National Science Foundation’s chief information officer, died on May 6 after a short illness. The General Services Administration starts to...

Sad news in the federal IT community. Amy Northcutt, the National Science Foundation’s chief information officer, died after a brief illness.

Her obituary in the Washington Post said Northcutt died on May 6 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor on April 27. She was 57.

NSF said Northcutt became CIO in January 2012 after serving previously as the acting office head of the Information and Resource Management and as the agency’s deputy general counsel from 2001 to 2011.

As CIO, Northcutt led NSF’s technology investments, governance, policy and planning.

Former Environmental Protection Agency CIO Ann Dunkin wrote on Twitter that she was saddened by Northcutt’s passing and will miss her friendship.

Vonn Welch, director of Indiana University’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, wrote on Twitter that Northcutt was a “great friend to community. Best thoughts to friends and family.”

Northcutt was not one for the federal speaking circuit and was never a guest on my Ask the CIO program. But we did learn a little about her efforts in blog posts on the CIO Council’s website. In 2014, Northcutt wrote about two $10 million projects to create cloud computing testbeds — to be called “Chameleon” and “CloudLab” — that will enable academic researchers, free of charge, to experiment with novel cloud architectures and pursue new, architecturally-enabled applications of cloud computing.

In 2012, she wrote about IT reforms, where she says she strengthened the governance process for IT investments at NSF. She wrote about adding more rigor and discipline in NSF’s decision-making process to help maximize investments and improve the agency’s ability to maximize IT “cost avoidance.”

“During her time as chief information officer, Amy solidified NSF’s Information Technology governance, and was a leader in the burgeoning Federal Privacy Council,” said NSF Director France Córdova. “We will miss her thoughtful leadership and kindness.”

Northcutt earned her J.D., magna cum laude, from Boston College Law School, a Master’s of Arts Religious Studies degree from the University of Chicago, and a bachelor’s from Smith College.
She is survived by her husband and two children.

Her obituary says the family will celebrate Northcutt’s life at a memorial service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 East Capitol St., NE, Washington, D.C., on Saturday, June 17, at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to a scholarship created in Northcutt’s memory to support women pursuing theological studies. Donations can be made to the Amy A. Northcutt Fund, c/o the Disciples Divinity House, 1156 East 57th St., Chicago, IL 60637-1536.

In other personnel news, the General Services Administration seems to be getting closer to naming an administrator.

GSA announced the several political appointees on May 12 including Corey Cooke as senior adviser to the administrator for cyber and technology, and Richard Beckler as general counsel.

In her new role at GSA, Cooke will provide guidance around policies and legislation about technology and cybersecurity.

In some ways this is a new position, but in others it’s similar to the role that Andrew McMahon held for about 18 months during the administration of President Barack Obama. McMahon, who now the director of Dcode42, helped develop the Technology Transformation Service (TTS) and bring more innovation to the government.

Cooke comes to GSA from Capitol Hill where she served as counsel and deputy parliamentarian for the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In that role, she advised committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and members on antitrust, appropriations, budget, financial services, parliamentary procedure and regulatory issues.

Previously, Cooke served as counsel on the House Small Business Committee, where she provided legislative advice on access to capital, entrepreneurial development, financial services, intellectual property and procurement matters.

As general counsel, Beckler will oversee the Office of General Counsel and serve as the chief legal adviser to the administrator.

Beckler comes to GSA after working at several other agencies previously.

He was the chief of the Criminal Fraud Section at the Department of Justice where he led a task force on foreign payments where he worked in partnership with officials from the Department of the Treasury, Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Department of State. He also is a former assistant district attorney in the Office of the Manhattan District Attorney, and was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Most recently, Beckler served as partner and head of the litigation practice at Bracewe
ll LLP in Washington, D.C.

The White House tapped three others to serve at GSA.

P. Brennan Hart III will serve as associate administrator for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs. Prior to GSA, Hart was a lead advance representative for Donald J. Trump for President, directing an advance team to produce nationwide public and private events for presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Jeffrey Post is moving over from Capitol Hill to be the policy adviser in the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs. Prior to joining GSA, Post served in numerous positions in the House, including most recently as the deputy staff director of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Finally, the White House named Michael Downing to be GSA’s White House Liaison. Downing has been at GSA since January as part of the transition team and will coordinate appointee personnel and serve as the agency regulatory reform officer. Downing previously held a number of senior political and state government positions in Pennsylvania. Most recently, he served as the deputy executive director of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.

Do all of these new political appointees mean the White House will nominate a new GSA administrator? One would assume it does. Industry sources say a few names previously have been floated around, but only recently has the rumor mill heated up. My sources tell me the person is more likely to have an acquisition background than a real estate background, which would be an important change from previous administrations.

This news comes after Jack St. John, GSA’s chief of staff, made his first public speech during the Coalition of Government Procurement’s spring conference. St. John said at the conference that part of the Trump administration’s goals is to “relieve the regulatory contract burden on vendors.”

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