Margie Graves: Making modernization happen

The deputy federal CIO brings both deep-agency experience and big-picture perspective to a management agenda that has IT at its core.

Deputy Federal CIO Margie Graves

Federal IT found its groove in 2018, and Margie Graves was in the middle of it.

There were still challenges, of course. Many agencies' Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions plans were slow in coming, some cloud migrations saw foot-dragging, and budget stalemates complicated almost everything. But there was a plan for IT management and modernization, and both the guidance and execution support from the Office of Management and Budget came with unusual clarity and coherence.

Graves, deputy federal CIO, won't take credit herself, but agency and industry leaders alike said she has been essential to keeping the many pieces in alignment.

About the Eagle Award

Every Federal 100 winner does outstanding work, but each year our judges pick two -- one from government and one from industry -- whose contributions stand out as the "best of the best." Graves is that Government Eagle for 2019.

Industry Eagle Winner: Peter Altabef

All Fed 100 Winner Profiles

"Margie has the technical expertise to go deep," one Federal 100 judge said, "but she doesn't lose sight of the bigger picture, and she keeps others focused on that as well."

Maintaining that focus was no small task in a year when that big picture included the Technology Modernization Fund, a shift to "cloud smart," continued adoption of the Technology Business Management framework and a President's Management Agenda that has IT at its core. But Graves, who came to government in 2003 to help organize and integrate the many agencies that now make up the Department of Homeland Security, has spent her entire career honing the required skills.

In the private sector, she specialized in systems engineering and post-merger integration. At the Transportation Security Administration and then as deputy CIO at DHS, she went deep into the weeds of agency IT operations. Thrust unexpectedly into the acting CIO role at DHS in 2013, she navigated a politically charged environment to lead for nearly a year.

In 2016, Graves came to OMB as a temporary replacement for then-Deputy CIO Lisa Schlosser, who shifted to the Office of Personnel Management in the wake of that agency's disastrous data breach. (Graves told FCW at the time how much she enjoyed pivoting to policy and how her DHS experience helped ground that governmentwide work.) She was named to the deputy job on a permanent basis several months later and served as acting federal CIO for the first year of the Trump administration.

When U.S. CIO Suzette Kent was appointed, Graves provided critical continuity and institutional knowledge, and she redoubled her focus on implementation. As she noted during a recent panel discussion, "Every agency is going to have to march down this pathway in a prioritized manner." And Graves is making sure that both the path and priorities are clear.

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