CIS: Help is on the way for OIT

Leon Rodriguez being sworn in as USCIS Director.

Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez, who was sworn in July 9, should soon have three new colleagues in the agency's Office of Information Technology.

The IT department at the agency in charge of processing green cards, citizenship applications and a host of other immigration paperwork is about to get a new chief of staff, chief technology officer and strategic vendor management chief.

The Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Service's Office of Information Technology (OIT) has a new chief of staff lined up to fill the vacant slot, according to a July report from the DHS Office of Inspector General.

"OIT has chosen a new chief of staff, currently undergoing the pre-employment clearance process. It is currently interviewing candidates for the strategic vendor management position," said Rendell Jones, CIS acting deputy director in a June 2 letter to the OIG. Jones added that his agency intends to fill the positions by October.

A CIS spokesman declined to name the incoming officer, citing the ongoing background check.

The soon-to-be-filled positions were identified in the DHS OIG report on USCIS's technology management progress and challenges issued on July 3. The report is a follow-up to a 2009 OIG report that had identified IT staffing shortages and limited IT budget authority as factors hindering the agency's CIO.

CIS has a new top executive too. Leon Rodriguez was sworn in July 9 as the agency's director after the Senate confirmed his nomination in late June. He had previously served as director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services from 2011 to 2014.

Mark Schwartz is CIS's current CIO, entering service at the agency in 2010. Prior to that, he was CIO of Intrax Cultural Exchange, a sponsor of J-1 visa cultural exchange programs, where he led business reengineering efforts to replace paper-based processes with end-to-end electronic processes for visas. Schwartz's work at CIS, particularly with agile development, has drawn praise from the DHS CIO office and was recognized with a Federal 100 award in 2013.

In its July follow-up report, the IG noted CIS's CIO had made notable progress since its initial 2009 report, including drafting a strategic IT plan, implementing IT acquisition and review and taking a lead position among agencies in advancing agile methodologies for software development.

In addition to filling the three OIT management vacancies, the OIG recommended that CIS finalize and communicate its strategic IT plan, address IT system training and update technology refresh plans.

CIS told the IG it was moving ahead on all those fronts, including the creation of an Applied Technology Division that coordinates quality assurance, enterprise and solution architecture and change control management across OIT divisions. It said the chief technology officer position will reside in this division, to unify processes, streamline workflows and make the best use of contractors.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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