High-profile head of the Department of Homeland Security's IT has been on leave since March 15, but the exact reason for his departure remains unclear.
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Department of Homeland Security chief information officer Richard Spires, who oversees one of the largest agency IT budgets in federal government and serves as vice chairman of the federal CIO Council, asked for and was placed on voluntary leave of absence March 15.
According to a DHS official who requested anonymity to more freely discuss personnel matters, the leave is unrelated to recent Congressional testimony Spires delivered in February or was scheduled to give in March.
However, the DHS official declined to comment further on any reason for Spires' leave, or the length of that leave, again citing the fact that Spires' leave is a personnel matter. Elected leave contrasts with administrative leave, which is involuntarily imposed, often for reasons of misconduct.
In testimony Spires delivered to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Feb. 27, he said that agency CIOs needed clearer lines of authority. At that hearing, Spires was asked numerous questions about DHS' federated IT management structure.
DHS deputy CIO Margie Graves, who is taking on the role as acting CIO in Spires' absence, testified in place of Spires on March 19 before the House Committee on Homeland Security's oversight subcommittee. However, Spires met with the subcommittee chair, and his official statement was initially posted online. At that hearing, the DHS inspector general and Government Accountability Office issued largely neutral reports about DHS IT management.
Spires has taken on an active and visible role at DHS since being appointed CIO in September 2009. In that position, he oversees DHS' IT budget and policies, and chairs DHS' CIO Council and Enterprise Architecture Board. He also acts as vice chairman of the inter-agency federal CIO Council and has played key leadership roles in the multi-year Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative.
Spires has been a vocal proponent of DHS' "One DHS" campaign, which aims to continue consolidating and aligning a federal agency that was, in the wake of 9/11, cobbled together from disparate agencies and bureaus. As part of the data center consolidation initiative, for example, DHS is consolidating dozens of data centers into two primary data centers. Other recent DHS IT initiatives include a shared services effort that has been applauded by federal CIO Steve VanRoekel.
Before joining DHS, Spires led modernization efforts as CIO of the Internal Revenue Service, served as president and COO of financial services software provider Mantas, and worked for more than 16 years at systems integrator SRA International.
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