Treasury loses IT staff to homeland efforts

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While the Homeland Security Department (DHS) is coming together, other federal departments are falling apart, including the Treasury Department, which is saying goodbye to more than 50 people from its information technology staff as part of the governmentwide reorganization.

Last month, Treasury started the process by transferring more than 30 employees from the chief information officer's office to DHS, said Patrick Hargett, Treasury's director of enterprise IT planning and operations, last month at the Federal Networks 2003 conference in Vienna, Va., sponsored by TeleStrategies Inc.

Many others also will leave, but there is still just as much work to do at Treasury for daily operations and modernization efforts, particularly as officials work to make sure the transition goes smoothly, Hargett said.

"I have to find ways of literally doing more with less folks," he said.

As part of the homeland security realignment, Treasury is transitioning several of its largest bureaus to other agencies, including moving the Secret Service and Customs Service to DHS, and moving the majority of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the Justice Department.

DHS is facing the task of melding those bureaus and at least 20 other organizations into a single department, and it's drawing a lot of the attention from public- and private-sector leaders. "But we shouldn't be forgetting the agencies that are left behind," said Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for Public Service.

Many good workers are moving to DHS as part of the transition, and Treasury's IT staff and the department as a whole will definitely feel the loss, said Fred Thompson, director of e-government projects at Unisys Corp. and former assistant director for consulting and marketing in Treasury's CIO office.

But there are still employees who know what needs to be done and are committed to juggling changing needs, such as the Internal Revenue Service's increasing prominence in Treasury's future technology requirements, Thompson said.

The department's IT staff was shrinking even before these changes. Last year, then-acting CIO Mayi Canales announced a goal to streamline IT operations at the department. At that time, it was estimated that 75 positions would be eliminated.

Treasury's IT leadership has also recently undergone major changes, with Canales, former CIO Jim Flyzik and other officials leaving in the last months of 2002. And the department's new CIO — Drew Ladner, a newcomer to government — started March 10.

Treasury could not provide any additional details, but a search found that in 1999 and 2000 Ladner co-founded two technology start-ups, Clique.com and Ripcord Systems Inc., in Seattle.

Having a new CIO, when so many other personnel changes are happening, might actually be a good thing, Thompson said.

"It's probably apt that [Ladner is] coming in now because he has no preconceptions" about where people should be and what they should be doing, he said.

The key for Treasury and its leaders will be to determine what the transformed department's mission needs are. Once those needs are established, officials will be able to tell what the IT staff will be doing and whether the reduced staff and other resources are sufficient for Treasury's mission, Stier said.

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