Embattled FEMA CIO Reassigned to Caribbean Post

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Patsy Garnett will step in as acting CIO until a permanent replacement is hired.

The embattled technology leader of the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been reassigned to the Caribbean amid reports the agency is not properly managing its IT and has misled investigators.

FEMA officials confirmed that Chief Information Officer Adrian Gardner has been reassigned to the Caribbean Area Division as the executive director of recovery communications technology. In the new role, Gardner will lead the communications systems recovery efforts in Caribbean U.S. territories after hurricanes and other severe emergency situations.

“This assignment is intended to address a critical need in the Caribbean, particularly with respect to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” FEMA Chief of Staff Eric Heighberger told agency employees in an email. “Administrator [Brock] Long is prioritizing the need for operable and interoperable communications resilience that has been widely discussed publicly. Mr. Gardner is uniquely qualified to fill this role with his particular expertise and knowledge of the Caribbean.”

Federal News Radio first reported the reassignment.

While Gardner’s experience was cited as the reason for the move, the CIO is also under investigation by the agency inspector general.

The investigation began in December when inspectors were reviewing outstanding IT management issues at the agency. At that time, Gardner told representatives from the Office of the Inspector General the four outstanding issues were part of the deputy CIO’s 2018 performance plan. A Feb. 26 management alert from the OIG said that wasn’t entirely accurate.

“CIO Office officials we subsequently interviewed said that, given competing priorities, the CIO had removed the funding and staff resources they needed to effectively address the report recommendations,” said John Kelly, acting inspector general.

Kelly then suspended the initial review in order to conduct a more widespread investigation of FEMA’s IT management.

Upon his departure, Gardner held the agency record as the longest-serving CIO, according to the email from Heighberger.

Gardner’s deputy, Patsy Garnett, will step in as acting CIO until a permanent replacement is hired.