CIO wants to move TSA beyond start-up mode

David Zeppieri, the Transportation Security Administration's new chief information officer, is a man of transition. Although he's been on the job for only four months, Zeppieri already has moved his office twice during the renovation of TSA's headquarters near the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.

Despite the fluctuating office arrangements, he must remain motivated to

accomplish the agency's evolving goals

of protecting the nation's transportation systems.

"We're not in the start-up phase now," Zeppieri said. After the Sept. 11, 2001,

terrorist attacks, TSA officials quickly

enacted several programs. One of his biggest challenges is motivating his staff, he said.

"You just can't do everything at once," he said in a recent interview. "They're tired. And now, we're getting ready to make a right turn."

Nevertheless, Zeppieri keeps his staff focused on their mission: using technology to prevent terrorism and keep passengers and their baggage moving on time.

He also provides technical support on programs such as the Transportation Worker Identification Card, which will provide biometric ID cards to all airport workers; the Registered Traveler program, which allows frequent fliers to quickly pass through airport metal detectors; and the Information Technology Managed Services project, a billion-dollar performance-based contract awarded to Unisys Corp. to develop the agency's IT infrastructure.

"My job is to be the conductor," he said.

And this job may be the most challenging one he's faced, he said. When he started at TSA, he asked for an assessment of the CIO organization. Following the survey of the status of the agency's technology, he is producing a top 10 list of priorities for the next 18 months.

Zeppieri also works with new technologies for airports, including diagnostic remote scanning and explosive-detection systems. "As we do [IT] solutions, it's my job to make sure they're portable," he said.

In his last job as CIO at the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Zeppieri helped modernize the office's grant management process, Internet-based communications and service-delivery environment. He would like to make similar changes at TSA.

Zeppieri will use what worked at OJP. "I became quite good at balancing my agency's priorities against the larger programs and common solutions being developed at the department level for use by all subordinate components," he said. "TSA, as an organizational entity of [the Homeland Security Department], is largely following a similar model."

His former boss, Justice CIO Vance Hitch, said Zeppieri brought enthusiasm and motivation to his former job

and should have no problem doing the same at TSA. "He picked out people

he knew could do the job and lead the pack," Hitch said.

Although Zeppieri can employ most of

the skills he perfected at OJP, the two agencies have a different history. Justice has a vast array of systems that have existed for more than 60 years. Luckily, TSA does not have the same environment, Zeppieri said. He is using the immaturity of the program to his benefit. "We're always in 'go' mode," he said.

Zeppieri is also proud of his staff. "We really have some people who care." For Zeppieri and three of his division directors, their jobs require them to work long hours and weekends.

Theresa Bertucci, TSA's acting chief of staff, speaks highly of Zeppieri. Bertucci, who worked with him at Justice, said Zeppieri is willing to listen to users' needs and worries about "what we can deliver on the front line."

"One of the first things he did was take a trip to the airport," Bertucci said.

Within the next 60 days, she said, TSA will provide high-speed connectivity to federal security directors at 16 airports that don't have this capability.

For a workaholic like Zeppieri, life

includes more challenges than a career. With what time he has to spare, he is

pursuing a doctorate in IT at George Mason University. Although he's not in classes now, Zeppieri is determined to earn the doctorate.

"I will finish it," he said. He may sneak in a course this summer, if he can sit still long enough.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

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

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group