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Congressman seeks answers on Spires

US Capitol

The questions about the continued absence of DHS CIO Richard Spires are now starting to come from Capitol Hill. (File photo)

On March 19, the House Homeland Security Committee was caught off guard when Department of Homeland Security Deputy CIO Margie Graves stepped in to deliver CIO Richard Spires' scheduled testimony and Spires went on leave. Now the ranking member of that panel is formally seeking an explanation.

In a letter dated April 19, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) asked DHS to provide an explanation for Spires "being placed on either voluntary or non-voluntary leave on March 15," three days before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency was notified that Spires was on leave and that March 19 testimony would instead come from Graves.

The inquiry requests a full explanation of who played a role in the decision regarding Spires' leave, whether, if and when he would return to duty, and a detailed account of the operating structure in the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer.

In the letter, Thompson stated that he was apprised that Spires "was placed on a non-voluntary leave status," which a subcommittee official clarified to FCW as meaning "status not of Spires' choosing."

"I am concerned about Mr. Spires' absence and the reason behind this sudden turn of events," Thompson said in the letter, citing Spires' leadership in upholding departmental directives and embracing the department's Integrated Technology Acquisition Review (ITAR) process to reduce duplicative IT spending.

"Without Mr. Spires' leadership, I am concerned that this effort to provide effective oversight of IT procurements will be abandoned," Thompson said.

In addition, Thompson requested the title, office, dates of employment and a statement of duties for every position Graves has held at DHS as a federal employee, and Graves' work history in private industry firms before she came to DHS.

The letter also seeks a "detailed statement regarding how Ms. Graves became officially employed by DHS." "It appears from other sources that Ms. Graves may have been converted from a contractor to a direct hire in the OCIO and then placed in a position of authority over projects that she initially served on as a contractor," Thompson said, highlighting a potential conflict of interest. Graves' bio states that she spent two decades as a private-sector consultant, working for A.T. Kearney, Inc.; Advanced Technology, Inc.; the Planning and Research Corporation; and Technology Applications, Inc.

DHS is instructed to provide responses to the inquiry by May 6.

Officials at DHS said the agency stands by its initial statement that Spires is on elected leave, and clarified that Graves continues to be acting CIO as FCW reported on April 1.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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