Leadership

Why is Richard Spires on leave?

Richard Spires

Richard Spires, CIO of DHS. (FCW photo)

Department of Homeland Security Chief Information Officer Richard Spires is on leave. Beyond that, the details get a bit fuzzy.

Fedscoop, which reported early on April 1 that Spires had been "put on immediate 'on leave' status," also said DHS officials confirmed that Spires is on leave  and that Deputy CIO Margie Graves has been installed as acting CIO.

Graves, when contacted directly by FCW, referred all questions to DHS public affairs officers. Another DHS official, who requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters, told FCW that Spires is "currently on elected leave" that he requested. Under DHS protocols, the deputy CIO would serve in an acting capacity whenever the CIO was on leave of any sort.

Private-sector sources tell FCW that Spires missed some congressional testimony in late March, but could not say whether the leave was connected to that incident. The DHS official, however, confirmed that the leave was "not related in any way" to the testimony matter.

Elected leave is usually straightforward -- a federal employee wants some personal time off. For senior federal executives, however, other job opportunities -- particularly those in the private sector that could create conflicts of interest -- can also be a reason to request leave.

Administrative leave, on the other hand, can be prompted by alleged ethics violations or personal misconduct, in addition to potential new jobs and their inherent conflicts. A DHS official, however, made clear that Spires' leave was elected and requested, not administrative.

John Palguta, who formerly served on the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Office of Personnel Management, and who stressed that he had no knowledge of Spires’ situation, said that such a move also "could be a mutual thing."

"Federal employees, particularly at the leadership level, are held to pretty high standards in terms of ethics and conduct," Palguta said. But simply being on leave "is not a finding of wrongdoing."

Spires, who previously served as the CIO at the Internal Revenue Service during the second George W. Bush administration, became the CIO at DHS in 2009, heading a $6.4 billion IT portfolio with an emphasis on efficiency improvements and significantly reducing the agency’s number of data centers.

Spires is also the vice chairman of the Federal CIO Council and was recognized in mid-March for his public sector expertise and service by winning FCW's Federal 100 Eagle Award.

In regards to that award, Spires told FCW last month that his work is based on wanting to improve how the government works from an IT standpoint.

"I have a real passion for wanting the government to operate more effectively -- and that’s not a political statement," Spires said. "It’s really about good government and not wasting taxpayer money and doing the best we can with the resources we have. IT can be such a transformational part of that, if done correctly."

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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