Chris Smith led USDA to new heights

When the nation’s food and agriculture inspectors need to research and search through archived e-mails in future years, they will have Chief Information Officer Chris Smith to thank for one of the most robust e-discovery capabilities in the federal government.

Smith, who has been CIO of the USDA since December 2008 and who announced his retirement to co-workers on March 8 according to sources and published reports, led the transfer of email for 120,000 departmental employees to the cloud last year.

It is one of the largest federal migrations to cloud computing to date and the latest example of technology innovations that Smith brought to the CIO job. For his leadership on the cloud, Smith was selected as a Federal 100 honoree in 2012, his second time as an awardee.

He also received a Federal 100 award in 2011 for leading the USA through the civilian government’s first test of the Einstein 3 technology that's designed to help detect and respond to cyberattacks. That effort required collaborating with the Homeland Security Department, the National Security Agency and USDA’s Networx service provider.

Smith helped to ease privacy concerns and get the system running to monitor email traffic coming in and out of government networks. Although much of the cybersecurity work is classified, he gets credit for making the Einstein test a success and providing a model for other agencies.

Smith also received attention in 2010 for building a security operations center for the department. Working with agencies such as the FBI, National Security Agency and US-CERT, he built a business case for the center, based on a need for near-real-time situational awareness. The Agriculture Security Operations Center received $5 million in funding for fiscal 2010.

Smith’s influence extended beyond the department in several collaborations. In 2011, he became co-chair of the Best Practices Committee for the Federal CIO Council, where he was instrumental in advancing work on the administration’s 25-point plan for IT project accountability and performance. He also led development of a best practices Web portal on which agencies could collaborate.

In 2011, Smith was the government chair of the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council’s Executive Leadership Conference.

At USDA, Smith has been responsible for all IT investments, operations and management. His portfolio includes IT architecture, cybersecurity, networks, data centers, international IT services and innovations.

Smith previously served as the USDA’s associate CIO for integration and operations, in charge of the National IT Center, Telecommunications Services and Operations and International Technology Services.

He also was the USDA’s CIO for Rural Development, were he supported a portfolio of $96 billion in active grants and loans.

Smith also previously worked at the General Services Administration as IT director to the Chief Financial Officer.

Born and raised in northern Virginia, Smith received his bachelor’s degree and master’s of public administration degree from the U. of South Florida. He also holds a master’s degree in Management information systems from George Washington U. Smith is a Reserve Air Force Communications Officer who is married, with two children.

As of late March 9, USDA officials had not confirmed reports of Smith's plan to leave.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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