Secret Service taps Nally for CIO post

Longtime Marines IT leader Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally is coming out of retirement to take over tech operations at the U.S. Secret Service.

Brigadier General Kevin J. Nally, Deputy Chief Information Officer (Marine Corps)

Retired Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally

The Secret Service has a new CIO, and he’s a familiar face in federal IT circles. Retired Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally, who stepped down as CIO of the Marine Corps in July, assumed that position at the Secret Service on Nov. 15, an agency spokeswoman said.

Nally takes the IT reins of an agency beset by scandal – the latest coming this week when a Secret Service officer's gun, badge and flash drive were stolen from the officer's car near the agency’s Washington headquarters.

The IT challenges facing the Secret Service are not far removed from the scandals that are cable news fodder. For example, the crash of a quadcopter drone on White House grounds in January renewed attention on the Secret Service’s investments in drone mitigation technology.

In addition, The Secret Service has a set of very particular tech challenges based on the scope of its operations. USSS communications structure, including email, voice and radio, are determined by the White House Communications Agency. The Service, "cannot build or maintain its own structure," former Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow said in an email to FCW. The Secret Service has also been limited in its ability to rapidly deploy new technology across its entire workforce, so that "enhancements are compartmentalized rather than used as an agency wide initiative," Wackrow said.

The job will pay well into six figures, and give Nally the opportunity to "transform" how the Secret Service uses technology, from mobile phone modernization to "advanced surveillance and threat mitigation," according to a January job posting.  

As Marine Corps CIO, Nally focused on collapsing the Corps' networks to make them less vulnerable to hacking, and said he felt empowered by the commandant to gain a clearer picture of the service’s IT footprint.

Nally, a former deputy director for C4 at U.S. Central Command, won a Federal 100 Award in 2012 for his efforts to virtualize USMC networks and consolidate data centers.

Asked to comment on his new position, the retired brigadier general wrote in an email, "I love the mission, the people." 

The Secret Service has over the last several years undertaken a big IT overhaul dubbed the Information Integration and Technology Transformation, which had a fiscal 2015 budget of $45.6 million.

The program started from a low bar: a 2011 Department of Homeland Security inspector general report found that 42 applications supporting the agency’s mission were running on a 1980s IBM mainframe with a 68 percent "performance reliability rating."

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