Conversations around data strategy are center stage in the federal community, and the challenges reach far beyond data collection. There’s a need to establish data literacy, data transparency and data consistency across siloed organizations in government.
This was underscored in a recent Federal News Network interview with Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, Director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), who discussed the need for data sharing across military branches and establishing secure platforms to cope with what he called an incoming “data torrent” at DoD. Additionally, just last month the General Services Administration released an RFI on behalf of the Executive Office of the President’s Chief Data Council, seeking advice from industry on seven categories relating to data, including data workforce recruitment and retention — how to “upskill” the workforce, data ethics, and data inventory for which comments are due Nov. 15.
Leadership Connect has identified dozens of career civilians and political appointees that have taken on data roles within federal government since the start of 2021. Here’s a brief overview of five leaders across gov who transitioned roles since September, all of whom are working on complex issues from pandemic recovery to modernizing our tax system.
- Denice Ross: U.S. Chief Data Scientist, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Executive Office of the President (EOP) — November 2021
If you’re in the field, we’re fairly sure you didn’t miss this one, but we would be remiss not to highlight Ross’s transition this week into a position that has been vacant for the past four years. Ross will be the second-ever chief data scientist, a role in which she will continue to work in the “boundary between data and action,” as she described in her blog. There, she narrated her experience working to compile and distribute data to help recovery after Hurricane Katrina. We can expect her to focus on leveraging data to steer the pandemic recovery as she works with data officers throughout federal, tribal, and state and local government.
- Ted Kaouk: Chief Data Officer, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) — October 2021
Kaouk serves as the chair of the Chief Data Council and came to his position at OPM in October after serving as chief data officer of the Department of Agriculture (USDA). Given that human resources, — specifically the retention, recruitment and upskilling of the federal workforce — figures as a top initiative in the Federal Data Strategy, his role at an organization that specializes in human capital management of the federal force centers Koaouk as an important member of the federal data community. He will work with OPM’s CIO Guy Cavallo and new Deputy CIO, Melvin Brown II in OPM’s push to modernize.
- Drew Amanda Zachary: Deputy Chief Data Officer for Innovation, Department of Commerce (DOC) — September 2021
Zachary is the director of the Census Bureau’s Opportunity Project, which partners with agencies to tackle problems by leveraging government data. Examples include partnering with NOAA to improve local-level climate resilience and teaming up with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau to address housing insecurity. Since September she’s been on detail, working with Interim Chief Data Officer, Thomas Beach, on increasing data accessibility and inclusion throughout the Department of Commerce.
- Melanie Krause: Chief Data and Analytics Officer, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Treasury (TREAS) — October 2021
Krause comes to IRS after 6 years in the Veteran’s Affairs Office of the Inspector General, an office most recently associated with reporting trouble with VA’s IT initiatives, specifically with the expensive Electronic Health Records Modernization project. Now at IRS, Krause joins an agency that identified data driven decision making as one of its six strategic goals of the IRS’s 2018-2022 strategic plan. If the strategic plan serves as a roadmap, Krause will work to advance of data-driven decision making by updating data retrieval processes and improving analytical tools across the agency. Krause will also lead research initiatives on topics of emerging importance at the agency, such as artificial intelligence.
- Jessica(Barrett) Simpson: Deputy Chief Data Officer for Governance and Strategy, Department of Education (ED) — October 2021
Simpson was elevated to the role of Deputy Chief Data Officer this October after over a decade working at ED. She served in program officer roles at a variety of offices, including the Office of Post Secondary Education and the Office of Federal Student Aid. Simpson now works with Deputy Chief Data Officer for Analytics Sharon Boivin, and reports to ED’s Chief Data Officer, senior executive service member Greg Fortenly.
Much of the work agencies are conducting now falls within the earliest stage of a 10-year growth trajectory. The categories are not neatly separated in practice and do not represent each agency in the phase it’s in — some are ahead of others. Regardless, we know that new positions will be created, some we cannot necessarily imagine now, on the route toward full data-driven policy decision making throughout federal government. Check in with Leadership Connect to watch what new roles will emerge as the federal workforce transforms.