Critical Update: How State Department IT Was Set Up to Deal with COVID-19

Mark Van Scyoc/

State Department CIO Stuart McGuigan joins Critical Update to talk about his vision for the agency and how the department’s decentralized nature made for an easy transition to mass telework.

One year into managing IT for the entire State Department—his first government job—the agency’s chief information officer, Stuart McGuigan, is starting to see his early initiatives pay off.

Prior to joining the government service, McGuigan spent seven years as CIO for Johnson & Johnson.

“I think that was really the experience that prepared me for the role that I’m playing in the Department of State,” McGuigan said. “The Department of State, by definition, is a global organization, and Johnson & Johnson is a global organization, in over 170 countries. We have 30-plus bureaus; J&J has over 200 operating companies.”

In his experience, the best way to deal with IT for a large, decentralized organization is to give more decision-making power to leaders on the ground. McGuigan has spent the last year trying to do just that at State, including establishing the IT Executive Council to enable outposts to manage their own technology needs while getting support from and sharing best practices with the central office.

The groundwork he laid through those efforts has paid off during the current COVID-19 crisis, as his staff and bureaus are well-suited to remote, distributed working.

McGuigan laid out his team’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and his plans for the department, as well as which IT and budget management principles from the private sector he’s found still apply in government and the parts of his management style he’s had to adjust.

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