The incoming Biden administration is pushing ahead on transitioning IT leadership as Trump administration officials turn over letters of resignation to end their tenures.
As is "long-standing tradition," political appointees turn in letters of resignation at the end of one administration for the next administration to decide whether to accept or reject it, according to former federal CIO Tony Scott. In "99.9% of the cases ... they accept your resignation and they have somebody else to fill that role," Scott told CIO Dive in November. "I'm sure the same will be true in this turnover."
So-called career officials, those not politically appointed, have greater chances of staying in their roles. They can, however, still choose to leave alongside an administration change.
Leading up to the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, several members of IT leadership across agencies are turning in their notices to pull away from federal service and Biden has begun to fill key tech advisory and leadership roles.
Members of federal IT leadership set the tone for the incoming administration's technology priorities. At the agency level, they lead each department's IT initiatives and within the White House, they guide the president's tech policy.
Frequently featuring voices from the private sector, who the president taps to lead each post can determine how much the federal government will involve businesses in IT projects over the next four years — and businesses' voice in tech policymaking.
Top federal IT leadership moving out
Federal CIO Basil Parker and CISO Camilo Sandoval are expected to exit their roles, Federal News Network reported last week. Both officials only served in the role for a few months. It's unclear where they will head after federal service or who Biden will tap to fill the roles.
In the interim, deputy federal CIO Maria Roat will fill in as both acting federal CIO and acting federal CISO effective Wednesday, a senior administration official told MeriTalk. Prior to her current position, Roat served as CIO at the Small Business Administration, with several years of technology experience across the federal government behind her.
The federal CIO and CISO roles are both listed in the "Plum Book," the official list of federal civil service leadership and support positions in the executive and legislative branches that may be appointed by the incoming president drafted by either the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Among the 9,000 federal civil service leadership and support positions listed in the Plum Book, CIO positions are available for appointment across the federal government.
Most federal CIO positions are currently filled by career incumbents, but several politically-appointed CIOs resigned this week to make way for Biden-era appointees.
At the Department of Homeland Security, CIO Karen Evans' tenure ended on Tuesday, according to a management directorate spokesperson at the agency. Deputy CIO Beth Cappello will step in as acting CIO until a new CIO is appointed. Evans has yet to announce her next role.
State Department CIO Stuart McGuigan turned in a letter of resignation effective Wednesday, an agency spokesperson confirmed to CIO Dive. McGuigan came to the State Department by way of Johnson & Johnson, but the spokesperson did not confirm where McGuigan is headed next. Principal Deputy CIO Michael Mestrovich will fill in as acting CIO in the interim.
The departments of Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation and Veterans Affairs all updated their websites to reflect a change in CIO leadership. Biden has yet to announce his picks for the roles, but many require Senate confirmation.
The HUD CIO role remains vacant, John Sherman is stepping in as acting CIO at DoD, Jack Albright will become acting CIO at DOT and Dominic Cussatt will serve as acting CIO at VA.
The Office of Management and Budget and the Departments of Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation and Veterans Affairs did not respond to requests for comments on resignations by the time of publication.
White House technology leadership… so far
While the Biden team has yet to officially announce some of its federal agency tech leaders, the incoming administration has already begun to fill key White House tech leadership positions.
Biden tapped Eric Lander, known for leading the Human Genome Project, as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Lander currently teaches biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School. At OSTP, Lander will be responsible for advising on a broad range of scientific and technological policy. Biden also announced a plan to promote the director of OSTP to a cabinet-level position.
Under Trump, Kelvin Droegemeier directed OSTP. Throughout Droegemeier's tenure, the agency led initiatives on artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences and other IT efforts. Droegemeier will continue teaching meteorology at the University of Oklahoma when his OSTP duties end, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In the White House, the Biden team announced Anne Neuberger as deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology and Tarun Chhabra as senior director for technology and national security. Neuberger previously held several roles at the National Security Agency and Chhabra is a senior fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University.
David Recordon, the first director of White House IT, will serve as the White House's Office of Management and Administration (OMA) director of technology and Austin Lin, who led security and IT systems teams at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, will be OMA's deputy director of technology. OMA supports operational and administrative efforts, including tech functions, within the White House.
Biden's team has yet to announce who will serve as White House CIO directing IT services for the executive office.
Biden's incoming boost to IT
As a part of Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 economy recovery plan, the president-elect is asking for major overhauls of government technology.
Biden calls for a $9 billion investment into the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), an astronomical boost. The money would go toward completing IT modernization projects at federal agencies.
"President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to launch the most ambitious effort ever to modernize and secure federal IT and networks," an announcement said of the incoming administration's vision.
The recent SolarWinds hack also inspired a slew of new cybersecurity investments. The Biden administration includes $200 million for the IT Oversight and Reform Fund, $300 million for the Technology Transformation Services and $690 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the COVID-19 recovery plan.
Editor's note: This piece has been updated to reflect administration changes after President Joe Biden's inauguration.