FEMA's CIO, deputy to retire

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's chief information officer, G. Clay Hollister, will retire later this year — a few months after the deputy CIO retires — Hollister told FCW last week.

Hollister, who, as associate director for FEMA's Information Technology Services Directorate, handles CIO responsibilities, plans to retire in October after serving the agency since its inception in 1979. He became the agency's first CIO in June 1996 after Congress passed the Clinger-Cohen Act that year.

"I loved it," Hollister said. "It's been a fabulous job. It's been like riding a rocket."

Deputy CIO Dennis DeWalt is retiring as well, in July. He will move to Smith Mountain Lake, Va., Hollister said.

As CIO, Hollister oversaw the development of FEMA's National Emergency Management Information System, a system of hardware, software, telecommunications and applications software used to assess the severity of emergencies and automate claims processing for disaster victims. FEMA continues to add new functions to NEMIS.

Hollister said that in recent years, high expectations for timely information technology solutions have made it hard for government — which is not accustomed to responding rapidly — to deliver.

"It's been a real interesting challenge trying to meet the users' demands," he said. "Building software is really an art, not a science. Things don't always come out the way you think they might. That's just life in IT."

Hollister said he and his wife will move to New Hampshire, where his wife is from, and "start a new life — probably not with new technology."

Hollister's departure adds to the tally of CIOs leaving government this year, including Roger Baker at the Commerce Department, Art Money at the Defense Department and Joseph Leo at the Agriculture Department.

However, it's unlikely that the FEMA CIO spot will remain unfilled, as is the case at many agencies. Hollister said. FEMA job announcements for his and DeWalt's positions are already "out on the street."

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