It’s barely February and there already are big federal technology changes happening among several agencies, including FEMA, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Health and Human Services and the General Services Administration.
Let’s start with a major change in the data community.
The Navy is losing its chief data officer. Tom Sasala is joining the Army as the deputy director of the Office of Business Transformation.
“In that capacity I will help drive process optimizations, reform business practices, help ensure the Army business community is connected to the mission,” Sasala wrote in an email sent to colleagues and obtained by Federal News Network.
Additionally, Sasala said he will be leading the Army’s business system transformation, business process reengineering and overseeing the business system modernization efforts.
OBT, which also directly supports the Army’s chief information officer’s office, says it drives business transformation initiatives, performing Army business system portfolio management, achieving an integrated management system, developing enterprise architecture, and ensuring continual business process reengineering. It focuses specifically on improving the business processes and information technology that drives the institutional Army.
Sasala has been the Navy CDO since October 2019 after coming over to the service in April of that same year as the director of data strategy.
He previously worked for the Army for more than two years as the director of the architecture integration center and CDO.
“I came to the Navy to help propel the department forward, and during that time we accomplished more than I could have imagined. We established a comprehensive data management program, created an enterprise data management and analytics platform that is open to all, and standardized data management roles and responsibilities across the department. And those are only the wave tops — we did so much more on a day-to-day basis and our successes are undeniable. All our successes were a team effort and everyone should celebrate the accomplishments. Kudos to everyone and my deepest personal thanks to everyone involved,” Sasala wrote. “Amongst all the highs, there were certainly lows, but we never dwelled on the problems. Instead, we focused on the opportunities. We wanted to positively impact the mission and make every sailor, marine and civilian a true data citizen. While I will admit we have not — yet — accomplished that audacious goal, we have come a long way.”
It’s unclear who will replace Sasala, even on an acting basis. An email to the Navy’s CIO’s office seeking comment was not immediately returned.
During his tenure as the DoN’s CDO, Sasala helped push forward the Jupiter data platform, addressed data duplication across the service and helped improve the culture around using data to drive decisions.
‘As I move on in my career, the Department of the Navy has built a solid and unwavering foundation as an institution. The best I could ever hope for as a leader is to leave something more important, and more permanent, behind in my wake. I believe that is what I have done,” Sasala wrote. “Though the mission is not complete, and much work remains, I am confident you will continue pressing forward, pushing boundaries, and making a difference.”
Another move inside the government is happening at HHS.
Karl Mathias, the HHS CIO, continues to fill out his staff bringing Jennifer Wendel over from the FBI to be the deputy CIO. Wendel, who started on Jan. 30, was the acting FBI deputy CIO for three years and worked at the bureau for 17 years.
Mathias became CIO last March and brings over Wendel to fill a key role that has been vacant for some time.
During her tenure at the FBI, Wendel also worked as the section chief for enterprise IT governance in the Office of the CIO where she directed end-to-end IT and data resource operations to streamline delivery to users and mission compliance, according to her LinkedIn bio. She also wrote that she facilitated “data-driven insights impacting enterprise direction on a technical scale through new scaled governance framework. Reengineer[ed] existing programs enabling long-term sustainability and operational capacity. Foster[ed] rapport with personnel as highly reliable leader who inspires confidence and exceeds performance requirements.”
And speaking of technology executives in new roles, you may have heard that FEMA has a new CIO.
Charlie Armstrong is returning to federal services after six years in the private sector. Armstrong spent more than 33 years at the Customs and Border Protection directorate, including the last seven-plus as the CIO and assistant commissioner of the Office of Information Technology before retiring in 2016.
“I owe a lot to Eric Leckey and Tami Franklin [the associate and deputy associate administrators for mission support at FEMA, respectively] for having the confidence in me to bring me back. Make no mistake, Eric can be very persuasive!” Armstrong wrote on LinkedIn. “I’m very appreciative of how welcoming everyone at FEMA has been especially Administrator [Deanne] Criswell and Deputy Administrator [Eric] Hooks.”
The Department of Navy also filled a long-time vacant position. Bringing in Jane Rathbun as the DoN’s new principal deputy CIO. The position had been vacant for several years, possibly since Kelly Fletcher moved to the Homeland Security Department in 2018.
The DoN CIO’s office posted on LinkedIn that Rathbun has ascended to this new role.
Previously, she created the chief technology officer’s office and led the DoN’s reorganization of Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) into PEO for Digital and business technology Enterprise Services (Digital) and PEO for Manpower, Logistics and Business Solutions (MLB) organizations.
Additionally, she played a key role in drafting the information superiority vision and oversaw implementation of the DoN cloud policy. She also led the development of DoN CIO’s capstone design concept for information superiority and many other strategic guidance documents.
“Jane’s superpower is her undeniable ability to get stuff done. From Flank Speed to the DevSecOps Task Force to her current contributions to the Cyber Ready effort. Jane is a fierce champion and a source of competitive advantage for the DoN,” the office stated in its post.
Over at the General Services Administration, the Federal Acquisition Service tapped a former DoD executive to run its Enterprise Technology Solutions office in the Office of IT category.
Jake Marcellus will start as the executive director of ETS on Feb. 12, a GSA spokesperson confirmed.
Marcellus who spent 12 years with DoD before coming to GSA, will oversee FAS’s telecommunications and network services contracts, including the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) vehicle.
Tracey Malick has been acting executive director since January 2022, when previous acting executive director Amy Haseltine moved to new role as deputy assistant commissioner for Information Technology Category.
Marcellus came to GSA in May 2021, where he led the DevSecOps effort of the Integrated Award Environment.
While at DoD, Marcellus lead initiatives in network management, enterprise service operations and cyber-tool development. He also deployed the department’s first full-service classified mobile tablet service.
Even as these agencies received a new influx of talent, the Veterans Affairs Department lost a key technology executive.
Todd Simpson, VA’s deputy assistant secretary for information and technology and deputy CIO, moved to industry after 13 years of federal service, including the last two-and-a-half at VA.
Simpson joined Carelon as a staff vice president for technology, engineering and operations in November. Carelon provides technology and services for healthcare providers.
At VA among the areas Simpson focused was on moving applications and systems to the cloud and implementing DevSecOps across the department.