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Simpson taking IT successes at FDA to headquarters level

Too often over the last year or so, this space has been taken up with a story about another federal technology or acquisition executive leaving. So it’s nice when there’s a story about a federal IT executive moving up to better things.

Todd Simpson, the Food and Drug Administration’s forward thinking and turnaround specialist chief information officer, is taking a new job at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Simpson starts March 5 as the HHS’s new chief product officer.

Beth Killoran, the HHS CIO, said this type of CPO will be in charge of building new technology for the mission areas.

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“This is part of how we are restructuring the CIO’s office,” Killoran said at a panel discussion at Federal News Radio’s offices on March 1 sponsored by Okta. “It’s a pilot with the CPO role where Todd will be building micro services, using innovative technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and other capabilities. How do we incorporate these technologies faster while making sure we are having some of these enterprise products built in from the ground up? Todd will take the great things he did at the FDA to the departmental level.”

Craig Taylor, the FDA’s chief information security officer, will be the acting CIO until the bureau names a new one.

Simpson turned around the FDA’s technology infrastructure. He put in foundational infrastructure services over the last 18 months, including implementing a cloud broker approach and setting up blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) to more easily buy infrastructure-, platform- and software-as-a-service from and begin the move to microservices.

Within a microservices architecture, organizations build apps that are independently deployable, easy to replace, often times organized around specific capabilities, can be implemented using different programming languages and build using automated processes.

Simpson also addressed long-standing cyber issues at FDA. He closed down almost every major cybersecurity vulnerability detailed by the agency’s inspector general, upgrading 62 firewalls in the process and adding cyber automation tools as part of the move to the continuous diagnostics and mitigation (CDM) program.

The piece that ties all of these efforts together for the FDA and why moving to the bigger job within HHS is an important step is Simpson figured out how to begin to pay for these changes.

Simpson has been maturing a charge-back model for IT services for the mission areas. The idea of understanding what it costs for the CIO’s shop to provide services for the mission is intriguing, especially as the Trump administration is signaling a push for reducing spending on back-office and administrative functions.

Simpson said most CIO organizations “charge” a flat fee to all mission areas to pay for technology. But what happens many times is one mission area uses the technology, say 80 percent of the time, but is only playing 10 percent of the costs.

The move of Simpson to HHS headquarters is part of Killoran’s goal to promote innovation. She updated the department’s IT strategic plan in 2017 with a focus on governance, IT cost savings and avoidance, the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act milestones and implementation and several other areas.

Give credit to Killoran for developing a new position for Simpson as too often when good employees find success at one part of an agency, they end up finding a new home somewhere else in or out of government.

Army , FBI faces changes in technology management

There were a couple of other notable personnel changes worth mentioning.

The Army’s CIO/G6 tweeted a congratulations to Dean Pfoltzer, who retired after 33 years of federal service.

Pfoltzer was the CIO/G-6 Director for Policy and Resources and CFO for the last five-plus years.

According to his LinkedIn page, Pfoltzer said he oversaw “major information technology (IT) policy, Armywide resourcing for $10.3 billion in IT programs, execution management of $800 million in enterprise level financial resources, implementation oversight of Armywide enterprise services, implementation of enterprise license agreements, and Armywide career field management of over 11,000 civilian IT professionals.”

He said he developed “business case logic for Army IT Management Reform and identification of savings with a goal of achieving $1.5 billion per year in savings. Efforts to date have achieved $340 million in savings per year. Built business cases and return on investment analysis underpinning Senior Army leader decisions to invest $420 million for network modernization above baseline budgets.”

During his career, Pfoltzer also worked for the Naval Air Systems Command, the Marines Corps headquarters and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The FBI also appointed John Adams as the new executive assistant director for the Information and Technology Branch. Adams most recently served as the assistant director of the Directorate of Intelligence.

Adams, who started his new role in February, has been with the bureau since 1997, and has held several positions in the counterterrorism division.

The FBI says the IT Branch is composed of three divisions and about 1,800 government and contract employees. It oversees the divisions of IT enterprise services, IT applications and data and IT infrastructure.

The bureau’s website said the branch oversees the effort to modernize the FBI’s aging IT infrastructure.

Multiple emails to the FBI asking where Adams’ role fits in with the CIO’s responsibilities were not answered. Wikiapedia says this role used to the assistant director and CIO, but the FBI split the two positions when it named current CIO Gordon Bitko in April 2016.

Adams likely will work with Bitko to help move the FBI to the cloud. The bureau issued a request for information in February seeking answers from vendors around five broad areas. The FBI is interested in moving to infrastructure, platform and software-as-a-service so it wants details about data center solutions, physical and access security approaches and services to host third party apps across multiple operating systems. Responses to the RFI were due March 2.

Read more of the Reporter’s Notebook.