Several CIOs Discuss Successes and Lessons Learned in 2017

Published: December 20, 2017


Themes of consolidation, culture change, realignment, cyber and the value of partnerships emerge as several CIO’s in the federal space discuss 2017 successes, challenges and lessons learned during a Federal Executive Forum.

Ten top figures throughout the federal technology space gathered during the broadcast of “The Federal Executive Forum’s Profiles in Excellence 2017” on December 19, 2017, hosted by Federal News Radio. These eight Chief Information Officers, one Chief Procurement Officer and one Program Manager from civilian and defense sectors discussed key IT success stories from 2017 as well as the lessons learned along the way.

One common theme that emerged among the speakers from Civilian agencies was none other than the modernization of IT infrastructure. The upgrades pushed agencies to require culture change and the consolidation and realignment of organizations and processes. Moreover, government and agency-wide partnerships and interoperability of systems and communication marked another theme for 2017 successes. On the Defense side, cyber reformations and automation were the main drivers this year. The moderator of the forum, Jim Flyzik, President of The Flyzik Group asked each guest to discuss their greatest IT success of 2017 and the lessons learned from each:

Rod Turk, Acting Chief Information Officer, Commerce

  • Success: Turk set a goal at beginning of the year for the strategic sourcing of services. This led to a realignment within his organization. Commerce also realized it needed to use BPA’s and unified contracts more often. The first strategic sourcing initiative that “broke the ice” for all of Commerce was the CDM program with DHS. Other successes this year include the establishment of an enterprise security operation center in West Virginia and NOAA’s development of a TIC access point, saving the agency 40-60% in telecommunication and internet connection costs.
  • Lesson Learned: Must first have a service to share if you want to achieve strategic sourcing.

Maria RoatChief Information Officer, SBA

  • Success: Roat set the following 2017 goals for her agency: have only four racks within SBA’s data center, move to Windows 10 and upgrade infrastructure. In the past year, SBA has moved to the cloud which forced the agency to upgrade relevant infrastructure in the process. In order to avoid buying more hardware in 2017, SBA placed its CDM in the cloud. Moreover, SBA is 40-50% done with its data center consolidation – a third of which was previously at almost full capacity.
  • Lesson Learned: Transformation is not easy but setting the direction beforehand and continually pushing through despite failures is what it takes to succeed.

Renee Wynn, Chief Information Officer, NASA 

  • Success: Wynn states that the role of IT at NASA has evolved from one typically related to devices to one that is very much a part of missions (i.e. planes, ground systems, etc.). As such, it is her goal to keep IT as a strategic resource for the agency. To do so, they have started taking actions on the results of a Business Services Delivery survey instituted before Wynn joined the agency. For instance, the office is deciding which IT programs should remain local and which should be managed on an enterprise level.
  • Lesson Learned: Think about who your change leadership will be and allow them to participate in the planning process so they are part of the change and not only receiving direction.

Joe KlimaviczChief Information Officer, Justice

  • Success: The Department of Justice just achieved its ISO 2000 Certification, a multi-year effort in IT management. A total of 14 IT processes were certified. While achieving the certification, the department baked management processes into much of its IT and has eliminated unneeded processes. The certification helps better position the agency in producing FISMA and financial standards.
  • Lesson Learned: Allow for constant communication and be mindful in a process like this to avoid adding more layers of bureaucracy.  

Kevin Cox, CDM Program Manager, DHS

  • Success: Cox explained that the point of CDM is to protect federal data form criminal activity. The program has achieved getting discovery to agencies to see the hardware they have and how to protect it. The CDM program has also established the online Federal Dashboard and is still working to get the inventory data needed to agencies. CDF will continue a shared services, cloud route for non-CFO agencies and work towards accomplishing phases 3 and 4 of CDM to get the technologies out to fix identified vulnerabilities.
  • Lesson Learned: There is great value in partnerships. CDM is not a DHS program, rather it is a government-wide program that needs great collaboration among agencies.

Adrian Gardner, Chief Information Officer, FEMA

  • Success: Personnel mobilization centers have been the center of FEMA’s successes in 2017. The agency was able to onboard approximately 10,000 additional people to aide in the storms and fires that have plagued the U.S. this year and 25 more people from other agencies to staff call centers. FEMA has achieved an interoperable process in emergencies with counterparts ICE and TSA as well as other federal agencies such as HUD and SBA. The challenge set before the agency is how to handle crises like the ones in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands where more than 50% of the infrastructure is obliterated.
  • Lesson Learned: FEMA learned how to institutionalize this interoperable capability and capacity and to make the method more unified.

Soraya Correa, Chief Procurement Officer, DHS

  • Success: The procurement team has succeeded in standing up the Procurement Innovation Lab (PIL) in order to work with all parts of DHS and other agencies to both improve the acquisition business process as well as effectively work more with industry. The PIL has run over 19 projects to date. It has accomplished proper planning with customers and getting what is needed in an efficient, quick manner.
  • Lesson Learned: Partnership must be at all levels.

Stephen Rice, Deputy Chief Information Officer, DHS

  • Success: Rice explained that the conversation about IT and how IT is viewed by management has changed this past year. The office has succeeded in having top leaders understand the complexity of IT through visualization of data and cloud centers. For example, the OCIO has made TSA leadership understand the available its IT resources, compute and storage models.
  • Lesson Learned: When explaining the technicalities of IT, be sure to recognize who your audience is and adjust the style of conversation accordingly.

Tom Michelli, Deputy Chief Information Officer, DoD

  • Success: DoD now has a Cyber Scorecard that has brought people, processes and systems together. The agency has identified the millions of endpoints under its infrastructure as well as its millions of people users. To establish this, the office began with data calls to collect the information. Thereafter, automation was used for the calls and now DoD has data feeds tracking endpoints and people under the agency. Looking forward, the office will work on Cyber Scorecard 2.0 which will consist of working with DIUX on more automation and AI to bring “lethality to the enemy.”
  • Lesson Learned: Be sure that systems can tie into one another properly for a dashboard that is real-time.

LTG Bradford Shwedo, Chief Information Officer, U.S. Air Force

  • Success: His office has a goal to operate at the “speed of cyber.” To do so, the Air Force has rolled its infrastructure up to operate on an enterprise-wide level. The office is also using a new cyber weapons tool, the Automated Remediation Asset Discovery (ARAD) to automate, identify and incorporate changes to the 600,000 endpoints within the agency. ARAD has allowed the Air Force to rapidly scan, patch and remediate cyber threats such as WannaCry.
  • Lesson Learned: Teamwork is key. Ensure that everyone on the team is on board with changes and have the top leadership in place to allow for different innovations.