DHS CIO Shares Plans for Next Chief Data Officer

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The department’s chief information officer said her office is moving fast on building segment architectures she expects will help with risk management. 

The Department of Homeland Security is officially recruiting a new chief data officer to optimize its planning and evaluation, according to the department’s chief information officer.

“We have a chief human capital officer, we have the chief procurement officer, we have the chief security officer, the chief financial officer, all of those involve a lot of data,” said DHS CIO Karen Evans.

Evans spoke Thursday during a conference hosted by FedScoop. She delivered a brief but meaty update on the department’s plans, which highlighted a contact tracing pilot program to make projections about COVID-19 vaccine distribution and developments on a mold-breaking cyber talent management system, in addition to the new CDO office. 

The department’s chief data officer, Evans said, will have a council that includes chief technology officers and chief information officers that will be under her office. But the CDO will also work closely with the CXOs, particularly the chief financial officer, to improve the decisions of what’s called the management directorate.   

“The chief financial officer also has the performance piece, and the planning and evaluation piece under the data act,” Evans said. “And so this office will have that key relationship and that key partnership about building that out, not only within our CXO community but also within our components.”

Within the CIO’s office, Evans said the relationship with the department’s chief technology officers will be especially important.

“That's where our enterprise architecture efforts are and so we are building out in a rapid pace segment architectures, which then allows us to be able to look at things like enterprise management service so that we can manage our risk accordingly. That's also going to have to involve the data and the management and the use of the data,” she said.

Another effort where the chief data officer will likely be key is a pilot Evans said is underway that will leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to help determine where resources will be needed to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.

“What we're really looking at is how we can do contact tracing for our employees, as well as mapping that up with public health information as it relates to vaccination distribution,” she said, “because what we really need to have is a dashboard, that's going to be able to utilize this data for our senior leadership to be able to do some predictive modeling.” 

Evans also took the opportunity to highlight work on DHS’ Cyber Talent Management System. DHS is also launching a pilot program on that effort that will allow prospective employees to proactively select areas they’re interested in and complete an assessment that will put them on the right track. As it is now, candidates have to know the complicated ins and outs of the USAjobs website.

Evans said the assessments for the talent management system should be ready by the spring of next year and noted this would also be an area where the chief data officer’s office will have a role to play.

“There's a lot of pieces that are related to that and we're very excited about building out this new office and recruiting this new person who will be our chief data officer here at the department,” she said.