Obituary: GSA’s Rob Coen

FEMA, State and Air Force bring on new technology executives to key cyber and innovation roles.

The federal acquisition community is mourning the loss of Rob Coen, the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service’s acquisition program director for professional services PS-MAS and OASIS.

Coen died unexpectedly last Thursday in his home in Maryland.

Headshot of Rob Coen
Rob Coen, program manager of GSA’s OASIS contract, passed away suddenly last week.

The funeral will be held on Friday in Massachusetts.

“We are deeply saddened by the news of Rob’s sudden and unexpected passing. Rob was a friend, supportive colleague, and consummate professional. His passing has left us both shaken and heartbroken,” said Tiffany T. Hixson, the assistant commissioner for GSA’s Office of Professional Services and Human Capital Categories in FAS. “As the director of FAS’s Professional Services Program Management Division, he led the MAS-Professional Services and OASIS contract programs, using his deep knowledge and vast connections in the government contracting community to benefit both our customers and industry partners. Rob deeply believed in his work, but most importantly, he believed in the people he worked with—often serving as a mentor to those around him. Whether lending an ear or taking the time to chat, Rob was always available. While Rob’s professional accomplishments cannot be overstated, it was his humanity that made him uniquely special. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this very challenging time.”

Coen joined federal service in 1995, working for the Small Business Administration. He later joined the National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) as its deputy director and moved up to be the GWAC program director.

In his role at NITAAC, Coen oversaw the roll out of CIO-SP3 and CIO-SP3 small business procurements and substantially increased the organization’s outreach to industry and increased their business. Agencies have spent more than $19 billion on CIO-SP3 and $13 billion on CIO-SP3 small business since 2012.

In joining GSA in 2016, Coen oversaw the OASIS multiple award professional services contract. Agencies have spent more than $22 billion on more than 900 task orders through this vehicle since 2015.

“I worked with Rob when he was at both NIH and GSA. He was always a thorough professional and someone who could be relied upon to give industry the straight story,” said Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners and a federal acquisition expert. “Rob seemed to get new energy from his role managing the GSA OASIS program. He was exceptionally responsive to customer and industry questions to ensure that agencies got the most out of OASIS. He was a tremendous asset to GSA and a great colleague. Rob will be sorely missed.”

Coen often was a guest on Federal News Network. He was patient in explaining the minutiae of federal acquisition, and brought excitement and passion to his job — which showed in every interview.

His death leaves a hole in the federal acquisition community that will not be filled anytime soon.

Our condolences to Coen’s family and friends.

CIOs land new jobs

Dominic Cussatt is the new chief information officer at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

Bob Costello is coming back to government to take over as the CIO of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Homeland Security Department.

These are just two of the latest changes in the federal technology community.

Cussatt joins State from the Department of Veterans Affairs where he has been since 2016 and their acting CIO since January.  His last day at VA was Aug. 27.

VA named Dr. Neil Evans, the chief officer for the Office of Connected Care in the Veterans Health Administration, as the acting CIO.

The move for Cussatt isn’t as surprising as some may think. He started his federal career with the Defense Department as deputy chief information security officer. He also served as co-chairman to the U.S. Committee on National Security Systems Subcommittee and national co-chairman to NATO Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Capability Panel in Belgium for almost two years.

Dominic Cussatt left the Veterans Affairs Department to join the State Department’s Intelligence and Research Bureau.

Cussatt also has spent time in industry with IBM, SAIC and other contractors.

Cussatt replaces Juan Conde; it’s unclear when Conde left.

As the CIO of the INR, Cussatt will support the bureau’s mission “to harness intelligence to serve U.S. diplomacy.”

Cussatt will lead the Technology and Innovation Office, which “manages intelligence IT operations and the innovation and change management processes of the Bureau. The TIO originates new ideas and innovations generated by others to include technology and production activities that support INR and IC objectives and missions.”

Costello rejoins DHS after a short stint in industry. He worked at U.S. Customs and Border Protection for nine years and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for four years, respectively.

He replaced Dave Epperson, who moved from CIO to CISO of CISA in October. Sam Vasquez had been acting CIO since then.

At CBP, Costello served as the executive director for the Enterprise Networks and Technology Support Directorate for almost four years as well a yearlong detail as the executive director of the Border Enforcement and Management Systems Directorate.

He did a five-month stint in the private sector with World Wide Technology as a strategy adviser in their law enforcement and civilian agency division.

Joining Cussatt at State is Donna Bennett, who became the new CISO in April.

Bennett joined State from the Commerce Department where she was deputy CISO for almost three years. She also worked at FEMA as its CISO and DoD as a senior information assurance officer.

She replaces Al Bowden, who had been CISO since 2016

And speaking of FEMA, the agency promoted Greg Edwards to be its CISO. He had been a senior technical advisor since July 2020. He joined from industry, but spent time with the Defense Information Systems Agency and NATO Communication and Information Agency.

Finally, the Air Force has a new chief technology officer.

Jay Bonci took over the role in early August, replacing Frank Konieczny, who retired in February.

“I’m rolling up my sleeves to continue the work I’ve done over the last few years supporting Air Force programs and initiatives, now in a leadership role inside of SAF/CN. My part of the mission is to empower and accelerate those on the ground by providing a cohesive enterprise architecture and service delivery strategy,” Bonci wrote on LinkedIn. “In order to continue to rise to the challenges of a modern world, we need to nail a rock solid digital foundation that works for the whole of the department, from weapon systems to commodity IT functions. This is in part prioritizing and integrating the right technological steps, developing the right adoption and enablement mechanisms, up-skilling our workforce, and making sure we are funding the correct efforts. We’ve got an amazing team assembled in SAF/CN to get that done and I’m excited for the future.”

Bonci joined the Air Force after spending 14 years at Akamai Technologies.

“It’s going to take me some time to get my legs underneath me and to resolve my outsider’s view of the world with the insider one. I intend to make LinkedIn part of the communications channel involved in this role so that industry and other government entities can have a good sense of how we are thinking and where our priorities are,” he wrote. “The Air Force and the larger Department of Defense is large and filled with numerous tribes, so I’ll be investigating and experimenting with how best to use these open-air communication platforms.”

Two technology executives leave government

Jim Russo, the branch chief of the Solutions Development Technical Account Management for enterprise technology services in the Information Technology Category in the Federal Acquisition Service at the General Services Administration, retired Aug. 27 after 41 years in the public and private sectors.

“I’m fortunate that I’ve been part of meaningful programs (especially enterprise infrastructure solutions (EIS) and commercial satellite communication COMSATCOM) while in government and especially our partnerships with DoD and CISA,” Russo said in an email.

Russo, who spent 17 years at GSA, played a key role in the development and implementation approach for the Trusted Internet Connections 3.0 architecture under the EIS program.

He said he plans to “rest, recharge and then consider possible opportunities.”

Donna Roy left as chief operating officer of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in August to join industry.

In a bit of a surprising move, Donna Roy, the chief operating officer and former CIO at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, left in July to join the private sector. She joined Guidehouse in August as strategy adviser in the company’s national security segment.

Roy returns to the sector where she spent 13 years working for DHS. She was the executive director of the Information Sharing and Services Office before joining CFPB in 2019.

“I am thrilled to join this innovative team. I am deeply honored to have served in federal service for over 20 years with so many dedicated civil servants. I am looking forward to this next chapter and the adventures it will bring!!!” Roy wrote on LinkedIn.

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