People

Congressman seeks answers on Spires

US Capitol

The questions about the continued absence of DHS CIO Richard Spires are now starting to come from Capitol Hill. (File photo)

On March 19, the House Homeland Security Committee was caught off guard when Department of Homeland Security Deputy CIO Margie Graves stepped in to deliver CIO Richard Spires' scheduled testimony and Spires went on leave. Now the ranking member of that panel is formally seeking an explanation.

In a letter dated April 19, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) asked DHS to provide an explanation for Spires "being placed on either voluntary or non-voluntary leave on March 15," three days before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency was notified that Spires was on leave and that March 19 testimony would instead come from Graves.

The inquiry requests a full explanation of who played a role in the decision regarding Spires' leave, whether, if and when he would return to duty, and a detailed account of the operating structure in the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer.

In the letter, Thompson stated that he was apprised that Spires "was placed on a non-voluntary leave status," which a subcommittee official clarified to FCW as meaning "status not of Spires' choosing."

"I am concerned about Mr. Spires' absence and the reason behind this sudden turn of events," Thompson said in the letter, citing Spires' leadership in upholding departmental directives and embracing the department's Integrated Technology Acquisition Review (ITAR) process to reduce duplicative IT spending.

"Without Mr. Spires' leadership, I am concerned that this effort to provide effective oversight of IT procurements will be abandoned," Thompson said.

In addition, Thompson requested the title, office, dates of employment and a statement of duties for every position Graves has held at DHS as a federal employee, and Graves' work history in private industry firms before she came to DHS.

The letter also seeks a "detailed statement regarding how Ms. Graves became officially employed by DHS." "It appears from other sources that Ms. Graves may have been converted from a contractor to a direct hire in the OCIO and then placed in a position of authority over projects that she initially served on as a contractor," Thompson said, highlighting a potential conflict of interest. Graves' bio states that she spent two decades as a private-sector consultant, working for A.T. Kearney, Inc.; Advanced Technology, Inc.; the Planning and Research Corporation; and Technology Applications, Inc.

DHS is instructed to provide responses to the inquiry by May 6.

Officials at DHS said the agency stands by its initial statement that Spires is on elected leave, and clarified that Graves continues to be acting CIO as FCW reported on April 1.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 Mark Emery

At first I laughed when I read the quote from Congressman Thompson's letter to DHS that Ms. Graves "may have been converted from a contractor to a direct hire in the OCIO and then placed in a position of authority over projects that she initially served on as a contractor." Then I thought this could harm a highly successful federal executive's career; so, I had to speak out. As Deputy CIO at TSA, I personally hired Margie into TSA almost 10 years ago, long before the 2008 date the Congressman suggested. She was not working on any federal contract that we supervised at the time. I have watched Margie's career blossom as she led many successful programs for DHS that have furthered its mission to protect our homeland, while being good stewards of our nations resources. She has managed the OCIO budget, deliverd on data center consolidation, and deftly supported three political CIOs at the Department. With our without Richard Spires, Margie Graves is the best federal executive to carry out the Department's IT goals.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above