Chris Smith led USDA to new heights

When the nation’s food and agriculture inspectors need to research and search through archived e-mails in future years, they will have Chief Information Officer Chris Smith to thank for one of the most robust e-discovery capabilities in the federal government.

Smith, who has been CIO of the USDA since December 2008 and who announced his retirement to co-workers on March 8 according to sources and published reports, led the transfer of email for 120,000 departmental employees to the cloud last year.

It is one of the largest federal migrations to cloud computing to date and the latest example of technology innovations that Smith brought to the CIO job. For his leadership on the cloud, Smith was selected as a Federal 100 honoree in 2012, his second time as an awardee.

He also received a Federal 100 award in 2011 for leading the USA through the civilian government’s first test of the Einstein 3 technology that's designed to help detect and respond to cyberattacks. That effort required collaborating with the Homeland Security Department, the National Security Agency and USDA’s Networx service provider.

Smith helped to ease privacy concerns and get the system running to monitor email traffic coming in and out of government networks. Although much of the cybersecurity work is classified, he gets credit for making the Einstein test a success and providing a model for other agencies.

Smith also received attention in 2010 for building a security operations center for the department. Working with agencies such as the FBI, National Security Agency and US-CERT, he built a business case for the center, based on a need for near-real-time situational awareness. The Agriculture Security Operations Center received $5 million in funding for fiscal 2010.

Smith’s influence extended beyond the department in several collaborations. In 2011, he became co-chair of the Best Practices Committee for the Federal CIO Council, where he was instrumental in advancing work on the administration’s 25-point plan for IT project accountability and performance. He also led development of a best practices Web portal on which agencies could collaborate.

In 2011, Smith was the government chair of the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council’s Executive Leadership Conference.

At USDA, Smith has been responsible for all IT investments, operations and management. His portfolio includes IT architecture, cybersecurity, networks, data centers, international IT services and innovations.

Smith previously served as the USDA’s associate CIO for integration and operations, in charge of the National IT Center, Telecommunications Services and Operations and International Technology Services.

He also was the USDA’s CIO for Rural Development, were he supported a portfolio of $96 billion in active grants and loans.

Smith also previously worked at the General Services Administration as IT director to the Chief Financial Officer.

Born and raised in northern Virginia, Smith received his bachelor’s degree and master’s of public administration degree from the U. of South Florida. He also holds a master’s degree in Management information systems from George Washington U. Smith is a Reserve Air Force Communications Officer who is married, with two children.

As of late March 9, USDA officials had not confirmed reports of Smith's plan to leave.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Nominations for the 2018 Federal 100 Awards are now being accepted, and are due by Dec. 23. 


Reader comments

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 Lets Get Real

Let's get real small business america! Go ahead and criticize & compare your transition to cloud to USDA's transition of hundreds of thousands disparate e-mail clients around the world. Consolidation of e-mail within the USDA has been discussed & studied($) for years and Chris Smith finally put it to bed! Bravo!

Wed, Mar 14, 2012

If he is truly leaving then why is he sitting hiring the well needed staff in the field? Why post jobs on USAjobs, interview people and then do nothing with the selections? I can understand evaluating staffing numbers; but why even post the jobs and have people go through the hiring process if there is no intent on filing them...definetly not a good way to look after the troops. Those in the trenches every day are responsible for making leadership look good, what do they get in return....I guess you could say a job.

Tue, Mar 13, 2012 Really?

I have to agree with "Dissapointed" on this, and I DO work for USDA (IT Management) and have spent several full days in meetings with Chris Smith. This "reporting" really is nothing but a republishing of Mr. Smith's own self-praise. In truth, the USDA was unable to successfully provide private Exchange/Outlook email for more than 20% of its workforce, and after being 5 years behind schedule turned to Microsoft to architect and implement their cloud solution. So for recognizing failure and turning to Microsoft, even at great financial cost, kudos; but for painting failure to look like unrivaled success? Shameful. Actual knowledge of current IT technology? Trustworthy leadership at the top level? Couldn't be farther from the truth.

Mon, Mar 12, 2012

I do not understand how big government can be praised for doing what small business America has been doing for years.

Mon, Mar 12, 2012 Disappointed DC

Wow, how do I get my golden parachute resume published in FCW? And since when is contracting your email system to Microsoft a big deal (and spending many times what it would cost compared to Google or an open source provider!)? Companies have been doing this for years. And Einstein 3? Exactly what did he do, say "aghhh, OK, I guess that would be OK"? DHS did all the work, USDA just had to route their SMTP traffic through them, no big engineering feat there. I don't work for USDA and know nothing about the guy, but come on FCW you can do more than print the guys news release that his wife typed up for him.

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