Burns tackling BIA troubles

Brian Burns, an information technology expert with 18 years of experience in government and the private sector, has been named the chief information officer at the troubled Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Until recently, Burns was the deputy assistant secretary for information resources management and the deputy chief information officer at the Department of Health and Human Services, where he oversaw an IT budget of $3.5 billion.

"I depend on the chief information officer to keep the BIA's computer network well-maintained and secure for our employees and service beneficiaries," said Neal McCaleb, the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs.

In taking this new job, Burns will be responsible for helping to fix BIA's computerized systems. Citing security concerns, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth pulled the plug on the Interior Department's Web sites in December 2001 to protect data maintained under its Trust Asset and Accounting Management System.

Since the shutdown, most of the department has gone back online. The remaining systems, including those maintained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, are responsible for much of the agency's trust operations.

Interior has held American Indian-owned lands in trust for more than 100 years, leasing the properties and processing revenue earned from farming and drilling. A group of beneficiaries filed a class action lawsuit in 1996, claiming that poor bookkeeping has prevented landowners and their descendants from determining their account balances. They estimate as much as $10 billion in lost or missing funds.

Burns is no stranger to troubleshooting. He has specialized in program management, systems architecture and telecommunications and security technology.

At HHS, he oversaw the department's enterprise IT investment strategy, architecture and security across 12 agencies, including the Indian Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration. He also oversaw HHS' successful Year 2000 conversion and worked to make sure HHS computer systems and their data was protected following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Last month, Melissa Rose Chapman became CIO at HHS, where she will oversee the department's IT resources, program systems and infrastructure. In addition, she will be responsible for the development of the agency's enterprise architecture plan.

Prior to taking the HHS job, Chapman was a career executive with the Food and Drug Administration, where she most recently was acting CIO. In that post, she oversaw more than $200 million in IT expenditures.

Among her projects at the FDA, she led an IT team in planning for the reauthorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act and spearheaded development of FDA's e-commerce systems that provided electronic review of drug applications.

Megan Lisagor contributed to this report.

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