HHS CIO resigns

Jose Arrieta will depart as the top tech official at the Department of Health and Human Services in the coming weeks.

Jose Arrieta, associate deputy assistant secretary for the HHS Division of Acquisition
 

Jose Arrieta will depart as the top tech official at the Department of Health and Human Services, probably early next month, FCW has confirmed.

Arrieta was appointed CIO of HHS in May 2019. He had served at the agency as associate deputy assistant secretary for acquisition since January 2018, and won Fed 100 honors in 2019 for an HHS project that brought the first blockchain-powered procurement solution to government.

The news of Arrieta's resignation was first reported by Federal News Network.

Arrieta's sudden departure comes at a busy time for HHS, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to reboot the way the nation's health department collects and manages data, a project called HHS Protect. The program was established as part of $30 billion in emergency procurement authority granted to HHS under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed into law in March. The project allowed tech officials at HHS to build out their own data surveillance and analytics system, based in large part on a $17 million no-bid software licensing deal with Palantir.

In a July House hearing, for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield said that he wasn't involved in the decision to field HHS Protect. CDC had long expressed concerns that its own data analysis and surveillance capabilities were underfunded and were in need of improvement.

HHS Protect went live in April, and grew into the central repository for COVID data reporting, bypassing systems hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In July, HHS notified hospitals and medical laboratories about new procedures for reporting COVID testing and data --- a move that raised alarm bells among critics of the federal government's pandemic response, because of concerns of political control over data at HHS.

"Experts are concerned that this decision might have been made so the Trump administration could control and hide data it finds politically inconvenient," Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said at a July 31 hearing of a special House committee established to conduct oversight of pandemic response.

In a July press call with health reporters, Arrieta said that "during the pandemic it became clear that we needed a central way to make data visible to first responders… the reason we established the ecosystem is so the folks that work for Dr. Redfield ... can log into one system and get access to four billion data elements."

According to information obtained by FCW, there are no other departures scheduled in the CIO shop at HHS and no major changes currently in the works for HHS Protect.

FCW Editor-in-Chief Troy Schneider contributed reporting to this article.

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