During Pandemic, CDC Aims to Hire Chief Data Officer


The agency is accepting applications through April 28.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recruiting a chief data officer.

The agency on Tuesday published the official job post for the position, which will be based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The announcement comes as the CDC plays a critical role in the governmentwide response to the novel coronavirus crisis. According to the post, the candidate who is tapped will serve in an Excepted Service position under Title 42 of the U.S. Code, which allows for a quicker, more streamlined hiring process into the civil service under certain circumstances. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC is working diligently to fulfill our mission. New positions are posted often in a wide range of professions,” agency officials wrote in a banner at the top of the page. “Please check our site frequently for your opportunity to contribute to the health security of our nation.”

Andrew Churchill, Qlik’s vice president of federal sales who works directly with federal CDOs, told Nextgov Thursday that because CDC is playing the lead role in making data available to government leaders to inform health care resource allocations—and help companies try to forecast business impacts and keep their employees safe—it’s “absolutely critical” for the agency to hire someone to fill the top data-focused position.

“The current pandemic not only amplifies the need for a CDO at CDC, but across federal agencies and private sector organizations as we collectively need to extract more value from information during this challenging time,” Churchill said.

Current federal employees must be at or equivalent to the general schedule grade level, or GS-14 to be considered for the CDC’s newly listed role, but previous government experience is not necessary to apply. And the potential salary may range from $133,602 to $219,200 per year, or more, depending on applicants’ qualifications. 

According to the site, the person tapped to fill the role will need to facilitate a data governance and standards structure through producing an “appropriate governance program,” and provide leadership to advance the agency’s public health data and IT modernization initiatives. The position is located in the Office of the Chief Information Officer and the chosen candidate will be expected to advise the CIO and other senior leaders on relevant policy and technology changes and trends. In the post, officials also note that the ideal CDO would position the agency “within the larger data science and advanced health science communities, ensuring that public health benefits from and contributes to impactful and ethical use of data for discovery, innovation, application and improvement.” 

From what he’s seen working with agency officials who have previously or currently fill such positions, Churchill added that whoever is chosen as the agency’s CDO will need to be a coordinator and convenor—“someone that can quickly build relationships and bridges across disparate CDC centers and external stakeholders and position the agency as an available, useful resource.”

For the CDC in particular, there’s also a range of obstacles such as data silos and policy restrictions, which need to be broken down fast in order to get information around supply chain, testing and capacity to the front lines. So it’s “going to take someone that gets stuff done,” Churchill noted, also adding that “speed is critical here.” And as for any agency, he said the CDO role might also require a high level of social intelligence. 

“This person needs to be a connector that can navigate the policy barriers and overcome data sharing constraints to position the role and the agency as an enabler rather than a police officer,” Churchill noted. 

And if the coronavirus pandemic continues to wage on, there’s also a chance that the person who is hired might begin the job while most are working remotely, which could be an enormous challenge, as building stakeholder relationships could prove to be vital in the early days. 

Still, “it also opens up opportunities to reinforce CDC’s position as a global leader and expand connections and information exchange with people around the world,” Churchill said.

The deadline for applications is set for April 28.