Matthews leads DOT's IT consolidation push

Nearly three decades after leaving the Air Force, Daniel Matthews is serving his country once again. As chief information officer for the Transportation Department, Matthews is drawing on more than 30 years of information technology experience to lead the department's agencies toward consolidating their IT.

Since his March 7 appointment, many people have asked him the same question: Why would anyone leave a secure, senior-level position at a successful commercial business to take a job with the federal government?

For Matthews, the answer is simple.

"The drive in me has been to give back to the government that which they gave me," he said. "I've always maintained that sooner or later I was going to return the government's services. That quest began — as it did for many people — after Sept. 11, 2001."

Matthews' business experience, most recently as senior vice president at Savantage Financial Services Inc., prepared him well for the challenges he faces at Transportation. At Savantage, he managed efforts to modernize the financial systems of several federal agencies, which helped make his transition to federal employee a smooth one.

"I think the diversity of things I have done in the IT arena will be most useful in leading the Department of Transportation to a unified IT approach," Matthews said. "I felt that my qualifications and what they were looking for were a mesh. It really appealed to me to come in and make it a departmental approach to IT, as opposed to just the secretary's IT staff."

Consolidating IT at DOT is a daunting task. The department has 13 separate agencies with more than 60,000 employees.

The effort will begin with shared servers and office applications such as E-mail, word processing and spreadsheets. Matthews said consolidation would save money in licensing fees and improve inter-agency communication.

"We need to develop relationships with each one of the operating agencies," he said. "We also need to provide the infrastructure and backbone into which to put that IT computational environment. Then we need to begin the process of leading the transition from the operating agency-centric approach to accommodating crosscutting initiatives between organizations."

DOT officials hope to complete the IT consolidation within the next 18 months. They expect to save $20 million to $25 million annually as a result.

Transportation's push toward consolidation comes at a time when many other agencies are also attempting to implement integrated management systems.

George Molaski, a former CIO at Transportation and current president of E-Associates LLC, is particularly familiar with the task at hand for Matthews. Molaski stressed the importance of letting the leaders at the various DOT agencies concentrate more on mission-related programs than on dealing with infrastructure and office systems.

Molaski knows of Matthews and has high praise for his abilities.

"I think he's highly suited for the position," Molaski said. "He understands technology, he understands business, and he understands the role technology must play in the government."

After working with the government from the outside for so long, Matthews feels his lack of direct federal experience is not a hindrance. Calling it a "50-50 tossup," he said it helps him bring a fresh perspective to the department.

"I do think that not coming in with preconceived notions helps facilitate conversations that lead to out-of-the-box thinking," Matthews said. "At the same time, not knowing all of the particulars on how the department does its business sometimes causes me to rein in and go do more data collection. So it's really a 50-50 proposition."

Regardless of the percentages, it's a job he relishes. Matthews said his primary concern when he leaves the office each night is "the safety of the world for my grandson." In his current position, Matthews feels he can make a difference and add a little more security for his country and his grandson.

"At the DOT, agencies like National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to keep people safe in their automobiles. Playing a role in doing that feels pretty good," he said. DOT "is one of the driving engines for freedoms that people have in the U.S., so it's a pleasure to work in this environment."

Despite making a career move that surprised some and led many to ask "Why would you do it?" Matthews knows exactly what would happen if he were to go back and face the same proposition again: "I'd be at the front door of DOT tomorrow, ready to go."


The Daniel Matthews file

Title: Chief information officer, Transportation Department.

Previous jobs: Senior vice president at Savantage Financial Services Inc.; vice president at Lockheed Martin Corp. and its predecessor, Martin Marietta Inc.

Education: A bachelor of science degree from Kent College in Mandeville, La., and a master of science degree in business administration from Strayer College, Washington, D.C.

Military service: Air Force, 1971-1975.

Family: Husband of 31 years to wife Robin. Son, James, is a member of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.; daughter, Tracy, lives in Dayton, Ohio, with husband, Jim Cunningham, and their son, Matthew. Daniel and Robin Matthews reside in Asburn, Va.

Hobbies: Spending time with family, racquetball, golf and scuba diving.

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