Immigration agency adds new deputy CIO job

The U.S. Customs and Immigration Services created new deputy CIO slot to help balance everyday IT operations and burgeoning DevOps, agile and cloud activities.

Shutterstock image. Copyright: Kalakruthi

The agency responsible for processing green cards, citizenship applications and a host of other immigration paperwork has decided it needs dual deputy IT managers to accommodate growing transformational efforts and everyday IT operations.

On Feb. 1, the agency posted want ads for both a deputy CIO for operations and a CTO on .

The deputy CIO for operations is a newly created position, according to an agency official contacted by FCW who spoke on background.

Keith Jones, currently deputy CIO at CIS, will continue as the agency's primary deputy CIO, but under the new designation of principal deputy CIO, according to the official.

"In FY15, the USCIS Office of Information Technology had 449 full-time employees, as well as numerous contractors, with $527M in recurring costs and $85M in enabling costs," Jones said in an email to FCW. "The size, complexity, and nature of the organization in terms of daily support and transformation requires additional leadership at the highest level of the organization. With our additional work in DevOps, Agile development, Software Defined Networking, and new cloud-based techniques, having two deputies to manage both the transformational initiatives and the day-to-day running of the agency's IT capabilities is the clear path forward for USCIS OIT."

The move to beef up IT at the agency isn't surprising. With increasing focus on immigration following terror attacks and mass refugee migrations in the Middle East and elsewhere, CIS has been under increasing pressure to quickly modernize its technical abilities to keep track of visas and do background checks. It has also been criticized in the past for not being able to keep up. A July 2014 DHS Inspector General audit found CIS's IT operations suffering because of chronically vacant top IT positions. The IG's office told FCW that the issues in that audit have been settled, however.

This past July, the agency started working with the U.S. Digital Service to modernize processes. It teamed with the State Department and the U.S. Digital Service on a project to modernize immigrant visa operations by digitizing the visa application and adjudication process.

Duties between the CIS deputy CIOS won't be rigidly split down the middle, the official said. Both could have responsibility over DevOps, Agile development and day-to-day IT operations as needed.

Along with the new deputy CIO position, the agency also wants to hire a next-generation CTO. The agency has remodeled that position as well. The previous CTO, Tiina Rodrigue, left in January 2014 and was primarily responsible for Enterprise Architecture, according to the agency.

The agency's Feb. 1 CTO job listing bumps up the position from GS-15 to the Senior Executive Service level, reporting directly to the CIO.

According to the listing, the new position is now responsible for driving the CIO's agenda to bring the latest technologies and tools into the agency, and then overseeing their adoption.

The CTO will also communicate with technical and non-technical senior leadership about new technologies and techniques and to evangelize for these new techniques and technologies, according to the listing.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed an emailed quotation from CIS Deputy CIO Keith Jones to another official. The story has been updated.