Federal Reserve To Hire Chief Data Officer

Appointment would make the Fed another in a growing number of governments and government agencies with chief data officers.

J. Nicholas Hoover, Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

March 22, 2013

3 Min Read

In what appears to be the start of a trend, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System is calling on the Federal Reserve System to hire a chief data officer to usher the organization through the big data era.

In a new strategic plan, the Federal Reserve board makes "redesign[ing] data governance and management processes to enhance the board's data environment" one of its six strategic deliverables through 2015. As part of that effort, the board urges that the Federal Reserve System create an Office of the Chief Data Officer.

By creating such an organization and position, the Federal Reserve System would join a short but growing list of federal agencies that have placed a high priority on structured management of agency data.

[ Out with the old, in with the new -- government IT needs to think more like a startup. Read We Must Run Government IT Like A Startup. ]

Among those agencies, the National Institutes of Health is the next newest addition to the list. The NIH announced in January that it planned to hire a new associate director for data science. The Federal Communications Commission has an agency-wide chief data officer as well as chief data officers for each FCC bureau. Other federal agencies that have chief data officers include the Army and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Commodity Futures Trading Corporation.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has also called for the creation of such an office. Earlier this year, the SEC named its first associate director of the agency's Office of Analytics and Research.

Numerous state and local governments have been adding chief data officers as well. Colorado, both New York State and New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles County, Calif., all have chief data officers to oversee their governments' data efforts.

Chief data officers have been a regular staple in some parts of the private sector, such as the financial industry, for years, but have lately become particularly salient with the rise of big data.

This is true in government as well as in the private sector. In October, industry trade lobby TechAmerica called on the federal government to "name a single official both across government and within each agency to bring cohesive focus and discipline to leveraging the government's data assets."

As for the Federal Reserve, the board says that the new chief data officer position should have "clear roles and responsibilities" and should address everything from managing the massive quantity of data that the Fed is collecting and analyzing to sharing that data, making Fed employees more aware of what data is available, setting policies for data security and controls, and ensuring better data quality.

A well-defended perimeter is only half the battle in securing the government's IT environments. Agencies must also protect their most valuable data. Also in the new, all-digital Secure The Data Center issue of InformationWeek Government: The White House's gun control efforts are at risk of failure because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' outdated Firearms Tracing System is in need of an upgrade. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

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