Memo: USDA prepared for CIO, CFO vacancies

The Agriculture Department has experienced a number of resignations and retirements recently among its executives in the offices of the chief information officer and chief financial officer, and some employees have expressed concern over the vacancies, said CIO/CFO Charles Christopherson Jr.

Many Senior Executive Service employees are eligible to retire, so the vacancies came as no great surprise, Christopherson said in a Jan. 22 internal memo that Federal Computer Week obtained, in which he laid out interim plans.

He also named Chris Smith as acting deputy CIO and Jon Holladay as acting deputy CFO.

Jerry Williams, deputy CIO, and Chris Niedermayer, associate CIO for information and technology management, were the latest to announce they are leaving later this month. Williams is joining the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, where he expects to be director of financial improvement. Niedermayer will go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office where, as program manager, he will lead the transformation of information technology governance processes for the agency’s IT investments.

Prior to those announcements, Robert Suda, who was associate CIO for integration and operations, left to become acting director of the Transportation Department’s Volpe Center, the innovation center for the department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Kathleen Rundle, associate CIO for operations, retired last month. Patricia Healy also retired last month from her position as deputy CFO.
“Experienced senior executives know that change often creates attrition of key individuals,” Christopherson said in the memo to CIO and CFO employees. He said he discussed the potential impact of the changes with the office of Acting Secretary Chuck Connor.

Christopherson said he expects the changes will create an organization that will mitigate the risk of cybersecurity and exposure of personally identifiable information, provide better vision for hardware and software architecture, and allow agencies to focus less on federal requirements and more on citizens to support USDA programs. The area where he expects a small void is the review of documents and the answering of questions that current SES managers provide.

In preparation for personnel changes, some higher-grade-level employees in the CFO and CIO offices have received advanced training, such as Lean Six Sigma classes, and their projects can be used as examples for SES qualification requirements, Christopherson said. Lean Six Sigma is an approach to business process improvement that helps managers implement programs faster and reduce costs through continuous improvements. USDA is prepared with employees who are qualified for interim management and to compete for the vacant positions, he said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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