SSA restructures tech shop to center on the CIO

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Be on the lookout for a vacancy announcement for the SSA CIO position.

The Social Security Administration is reorganizing its tech shop, losing some tech leaders, moving others and looking for a new chief information officer, according to an internal memo issued to senior staff Wednesday and obtained by Nextgov/FCW

Currently, the agency’s CIO sits in the Office of Systems and holds the additional title of deputy commissioner of systems, but SSA is now restructuring that office to become the Office of the CIO, wrote acting commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi.

The move comes as the Biden administration's nominee to lead SSA for a full six-year term, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, is headed for a vote of the full Senate. His nomination was advanced on Tuesday on a 17-10 vote of the Senate Finance Committee.

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act of 2014, or FITARA, established the CIO “as a key strategic partner to the agency’s modernization goals,” Kijakazi wrote. 

That 2014 IT overhaul included enhanced authorities for agency CIOs and was intended to empower them with authority over IT budget development, management, governance and contracting. CIOs’ authorities, and who they report to within their agency, have been of continued interest for lawmakers that track FITARA implementation in agencies.

But since SSA consolidated the CIO role into the Office of Systems, “the IT landscape has continued to evolve due to emerging technologies and increased focus on customer and employee experience,” Kijakazi continued. “Therefore, I have decided to restructure the Office of Systems as the Office of the CIO, led by a CIO, to provide strategic vision, align IT initiatives with overall business goals and drive innovation.”

Currently, Sean Brune serves as the deputy commissioner for systems and CIO. He will be moving to be the assistant deputy commissioner in the Operations office at SSA, the agency head wrote, where he’ll be helping with service delivery challenges at the agency.

SSA will be announcing a vacancy for a new CIO, and more information is forthcoming about their exact role and the new office’s structure, wrote Kijakazi.

In the meantime, Patrick Newbold, currently dual-hatted as the assistant deputy commissioner for IT modernization and acting deputy chief transformation officer, will be serving as the acting CIO and setting up the new office, until his planned departure from the agency altogether in January. Newbold has been at SSA since 2021, according to his Linkedin. 

The new office will feature Brian Peltier, currently the chief architect at the agency, as the acting deputy CIO for strategy, and Wayne Lemon, currently assistant deputy commissioner and deputy CIO, as the deputy CIO for implementation.