Get to Know a Chief Data Officer: Scott Shoup, FEMA

Nextgov sat down with five agency chief data officers across government. Read edited excerpts with Scott Shoup, chief data officer of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The emergence of chief data officers in government has accelerated in recent months. No fewer than six newly minted CDOs have been appointed to agency spots since July.

Nextgov sat down with five agency CDOs across government to discuss their to-do lists, how they’re approaching their roles and just how important the “chief” title really is. Below, read edited excerpts. 

Read more from the special report: "The Rise of the Chief Data Officer

Scott Shoup, CDO of the Federal Emergency Management Agency

The CV

Shoup is a 20-year veteran of FEMA, starting with the agency about a year out of college taking registrations after the devastating Northridge earthquake in 1994.

As he climbed the career ladder, Shoup moved into more of an IT and data role, helping co-found FEMA’s enterprise data warehouse all the way back in 2004. Later, he helped manage FEMA’s OpenFEMA initiative.

The agency finally made it official and appointed Shoup the agency’s first CDO last September.

"I've been with the organization for 20 years, and we're really in a golden age of data management here,” he tells Nextgov.

The Org Chart

The FEMO CDO falls under the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

The To-List

Shoup says he takes orders on the importance of open data directly from the top -- Craig Fugate, the FEMA administrator. “His feeling is, free the data,” Shoup explains.

In addition to expanding transparency efforts, Shoup says the agency wants to be more proactive about leveraging data operationally -- not just put together after-action reports.

"We want to have more direct connection to the work being done at the edge, at the disaster event, in preparedness and in mitigation,” he says. “We want to be more survivor-centric. We want to be more expeditionary, meaning that we have more eyes and visibility into what's happening on the edge of what we do.”

The Data

Shoup says FEMA data generally falls into a few broad categories. Mission data describes data collected as part of the agency’s disaster-recovery efforts, such as housing assistance, grants and preparedness programs. The agency is also collecting reams of data about its workforce as well as “support data,” which encompasses procurement, financial information and IT system data.

The CDO Title

“If an organization is going to name a chief data officer, he or she needs to have a governance structure around them to be able to get leadership and their business partners talking about data -- and everything's going to flow from that,” he says.

Meet the Chief Data Officers

Read Q&As with all five CDOs profiled by Nextgov.

Read more from the Q&A with Niall Brennan

Read more from the Q&A with Dan Morgan

Read more from the Q&A with Lynn Overmann

Read more from the Q&A with Brandon Pustejovsky