recommended reading

Homeland Security CIO Takes an Unexplained Leave of Absence


This story has been updated. 

The long-time chief information officer of the Homeland Security Department is on leave, according to a DHS official who requested anonymity. 

Richard Spires, who also serves as vice chairman of the Federal CIO Council and co-chair of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, has overseen the department’s $6.4 billion information technology portfolio since September 2009. The typical turnover for a federal CIO is about two years.

There had been speculation that Spires’ absence concerned a March 19 House Homeland Security Committee panel hearing on DHS’ ability to employ IT in securing the borders. He was not at the session.

Committee Member Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., was "disappointed" that Spires was unable to testify, Computerworld reported at the time. "Mr. Spires has been outspoken on improving IT at DHS and ensuring transparency and meaningful oversight," Duncan said.

The DHS official said he could not discuss why Spires took leave, but said it is unrelated to his previous testimony on IT management or the remarks he was scheduled to deliver on March 19. The official said Spires in fact met with the panel’s chairman to discuss topics related to the hearing.

The Government Accountability Office reported on March 19 that of Homeland Security’s 363 major IT investments worth collectively $4 billion a year, 68 projects -- costing about $1 billion annually -- "were not meeting cost and/or schedule commitments." Later in the month, GAO auditors added, "DHS has begun to implement a governance structure to improve program management consistent with best practices, but the structure covers less than 20 percent of DHS's major information technology investments."

Just 10 days ago, FCW granted Spires top honors among federal IT professionals with an "Eagle Award" for making the most significant impact in the field. 

From 2004 through 2008, Spires worked at the IRS in various positions, including deputy commissioner for operations support, which involved responsibility for the agency’s key support and administrative functions. Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, ranking member of the committee, said he wants DHS to explain Spires' absence.

“Recent revelations about Mr. Spires’ tenure at DHS have led to more questions than answers," Thompson said in an email Monday afternoon. "Because his leave coincides with an important congressional hearing, as DHS' congressional authorizers, members of this committee need to have a clear understanding of Mr. Spires' status at the department.  I hope the department is forthcoming with this information."

Threatwatch Alert

Stolen laptop

3.7M Hong Kong Voters' Personal Data Stolen

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.