Hobbs confirms retirement rumors

Treasury’s CIO set a standard for federal workforce management

Ira Hobbs, the Treasury Department’s chief information officer, plans to retire from government at the end of the year. In confirming his intentions, Hobbs settled rumors last week that have been circulating throughout the federal information technology community for months.

Hobbs, who has been CIO at Treasury since June 2004 and worked at the Agriculture Department for 22 years before that, was tight-lipped about what he plans to do next or who might succeed him as CIO.

“It’s time to move on,” Hobbs said in an interview with Federal Computer Week. “I really haven’t formulated any plans nor am I in any discussions with anyone. My intent is to spend time with my family just doing nothing, just taking it easy.”

Hobbs, a career federal employee, said he believes that he helped Treasury attract the best employees to fill positions in the CIO office and the department. He said he also fostered productive working relationships, tightened the link between the technical and business functions of the department, and made progress in several technology areas.

Nevertheless, Hobbs said, “there is always something new on the horizon. We have many miles to go before we sleep.”

One piece of unfinished business is the Treasury Communications Enterprise, a departmentwide data, voice and video contract that has been delayed by protests. Hobbs declined to talk about the contract.

Hobbs is probably best known for his work on federal IT workforce issues, a cause he championed as co-chairman of the CIO Council’s IT Workforce Committee.

“I think that the most significant thing we did was [create a] heightened level of awareness in terms of getting people focused on the notion of workforce as [essential] to the things we are trying to get done in the federal arena,” Hobbs said. 

It will be important for someone to keep alive the notion of matching agency mission with employee skills in Hobbs’ absence, said Robert Tobias, a professor at American University and director of the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation.

“It’s easy to complain about lack of skills and lack of development, but it takes more discipline, focus, persistence, head banging — whatever — to obtain funds, design programs, create training and development that will translate into [improved] organizational performance,” he said.

The attention Hobbs has paid to the workforce made other people pay attention, too, Tobias said. “Without him, there is a risk that there will be even less focus than there is today.”

It’s not surprising that Hobbs took on a leadership role within the IT community, said Anne Reed, president of Acquisition Solutions and former CIO of the Agriculture Department.

In addition to the CIO Council, Hobbs has been active in the Industry Advisory Council and the Association for Federal Information Resources Management, which he single-handedly turned around when support for the group was waning several years ago, Reed said.

“I think Ira is one of the best examples of a role model in government,” Reed said.

O’Hara is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.
The Ira Hobbs fileCareer highlights: Chief information officer at the Treasury Department since June 2004. He spent 23 years at the Agriculture Department in various positions, including deputy CIO. He also served as co-chairman of the CIO Council’s Information Technology Workforce Committee.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida A&M University and a master’s degree in public administration from Florida State University.

Plans: Hobbs said that when he retires from government he would like to do some volunteer work with civic-minded organizations. Beyond that, he has no plans other than to spend time with his wife and son. Hobbs said he is confident that someone will become the next IT workforce champion. “And I’m sure that I will always be available in that alumni reach-back capacity,” he said.

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