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FCW Insider: USDA's leadership vacancies

Our eyes spotted several former -- or and soon to be former -- Agriculture Department IT executives having dinner this week. Celebrating? I wasn't there, so it's unclear... but there is much buzz about what exactly is going on at USDA. Those questions arise because of the departure of three well-respected officials ... and many are asking how USDA business is getting done.

There has been just a run of departures at USDA in recent weeks among the agency's IT leadership. Bob Suda, who had been USDA's associate CIO for integration and operations, left that agency to become acting director of the Volpe Center, the innovation center for the Transportation Department's Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Chris Smith has been named as acting USDA associate CIO.

Then, in recent days, Jerry Williams, USDA's deputy chief information officer, and Chris Niedermayer, the department's associate CIO for information and technology management, announced they were leaving for other posts. In February, Williams will move to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, where he has conditionally accepted a position to be director of financial improvement under Janice Lambert, ODNI's chief financial officer. Niedermayer will go to the Patent and Trademark Office, where as program manager he will lead the transformation of information technology governance processes for the agency's IT investments under CIO David Freeland.

CIO Dave Combs left last year and was replaced by Charles Christopherson, USDA's chief financial officer, who added the CIO duties to his title.

The USDA CIO leadership roster lists seven top positions, in addition Christopherson. In February, six of the seven will either be vacant or have people in an "acting" capacity. And, of course, Christopherson is a political appointee, so his days are numbered.

They say that nature abhors a vacuum, so... if anybody has insights as to what is going on, I'd love to hear about them.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Jan 18, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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