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Friends, former colleagues praise Spires at event

Richard Spires

Former DHS CIO Richard Spires addresses a crowd gathered in his honor. (FCW photo by Frank Konkel)

Standing before a large crowd of friends and former colleagues gathered to recognize him on July 29, Richard Spires turned visibly emotional.

Spires, former Department of Homeland Security CIO, was clearly proud of an eight-year federal legacy that – at least on this night – seemed untainted by the strange circumstances under which he left government employment,  yet also humbled to be appreciated by so many who came out in his honor.

Spires took the stage following a lengthy ramp-up in which person after person spoke highly of his integrity, character and work ethic.  AFCEA Bethesda, GITEC, TechAmerica and AFFIRM sponsored the event, held at the National Press Club in Washington.

DHS acting CIO Margie Graves praised his leadership; acting and former DHS component CIOs expressed gratitude for his hard-nosed approach to federal IT efficiency; and several other  DHS employees, other feds and industry leaders thanked him for his service.

The theme of their remarks was perhaps best summed up by Justice Department CIO Luke McCormack, who previously served alongside Spires as the CIO of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at DHS. McCormack made light of Spires' intense work ethic before highlighting the need for a sometimes-tenacious CIO at large agencies like DHS.

"Richard laid out thought processes and astute observations," McCormack said. "He would listen for a moment, and then put the pedal to the metal. We understood where the goal line was, where the compass was headed. That was exactly what DHS needed at the time."

When it was finally his turn to speak, Spires briefly addressed his departure from DHS—he resigned in May after two months on an unexplained leave -- with a touch of humor, and spent the next several minutes hinting as his plans before highlighting the growing importance of IT in federal government.

"I left on some interesting terms," Spires said, drawing laughs and prompting a few red faces in the crowd. "People can professionally disagree, and there were some disagreements. Given those disagreements, I made the decision to leave. I'm going to miss government."

Consulting on his own right now, Spires did not rule out another government gig, but he is expected to return to the private sector, where he first made a name for himself before becoming one of the most recognizable figures in federal IT. Spires served four years at the Internal Revenue Services and another four at DHS, where he managed a $6.4 billion IT portfolio and saw considerable successes in implementing federal cost-savings initiatives.

In addition, Spires was vice-chairman of the federal CIO Council.

"Never say never, I'm not that old," Spires said, speaking of whether he'd ever be a fed again. "Maybe someday I'll return to government, but I'm getting more excited about easing back into the private sector."

"I can't imagine not staying part of this community," he added, "so you're going to get to see me around, whether you want to or not. I want to continue to have the government operate more efficiently."

Posted by Frank Konkel on Jul 30, 2013 at 6:16 AM


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