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U.S. Marshals gets new chief data officer

Struggling with a flood of data, the U.S. Marshals Service has hired Roberta Griffith, a former official with the departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, as its new chief data officer. Griffith's first day on the job was Nov. 30, a USMS spokesman confirmed.

"As the CDO, Dr. Griffith will establish and implement an enterprise data strategy to leverage data insights that drive strategic and tactical business decisions," USMS spokesman Drew Wade said in a statement to FCW. "Her primary focus will be bringing together technology and culture with the goal of unlocking data for easier use and improving data-driven decisions," he said.

The post pays up to $158,700 a year and be charged with inculcating "an organizational culture that treats data as a cross-functional asset," according to the job posting. She will run a staff of 10 federal and contracted employees, according to Wade.

Griffith's right-hand person in helping driving new data policies will be Kimberly Noonan, the USMS's lead data scientist.

Marshals Service CIO Karl Mathias alluded to the new CDO – and spoke to the challenges facing that person – at a Nov. 19 breakfast hosted by AFCEA's Bethesda chapter.

"Taking data and turning it into knowledge that we can execute against is really the struggle we face," Mathias said.

Despite the legend of the fugitive-catching marshal, the USMS budget is more focused on the transport and handling of prisoners than on rounding them up, Mathias said. The service is trying to make those transport logistics less paper-based.  

The USMS is working with the Bureau of Prisons on an automated data-sharing system, Mathias said. That would do away with the large sacks of files that officials carry with them on prisoner flights.

The sacks of files are "microcosms of a bigger problem" at the USMS with exploiting data, he said.

Mathias, a former information management specialist in the Air Force, also said his shop is "rethinking" how the USMS procures and delivers IT services.

Griffith's hiring is not the only front in the USMS's effort to improve its use of data. The agency in August issued an updated request for information looking for an academic institution to provide data analytics training for USMS personnel. 

Further, the USMS's 2012 to 2016 strategic plan emphasizes better data management. The "USMS operates with legacy systems and business structures that impede efficiency," the document states.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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