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FCW : February 2014
February 2014 FCW.COM 25 M argie Graves has been at the Department of Homeland Security since its inception. Motivated to do something in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, she jumped at the chance to help build the Transpor- tation Security Administration and has been working on DHS IT ever since. "We ve come a long way," Graves said. "DHS has gone from a stand-up agency provisioning computers on fold- ing tables to getting [departmentwide IT] products on the ground." For example, DHS is evolving into a key force behind and provider of new cloud-based technologies. The agency is at the forefront of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which sets baseline requirements for most agency cloud deployments. Graves has also fostered DHS agile development efforts, including an architecture for mobile devices and services that saves DHS signi cant money and is referenced by other agencies. "Margie is a strong blend of technical know-how com- bined with the ability to translate the technical for non-IT people," said Dan Chenok, executive director of the IBM Center for the Business of Government. "She can go deep" in explaining technology while remaining focused on the agency s mission. Her rst thought on issues critical to DHS, such as immi- gration and national security, "is how to leverage DHS and cross-community resources," Chenok said. "I ve seen it sev- eral times --- that focus and her ability to work within the network to get the job done." Stepping into the cross re For much of her time at the agency, however, Graves worked behind the scenes --- highly regarded by her peers, but largely unknown outside the IT community. That changed when then-CIO Richard Spires found himself at odds with DHS leaders and resigned in 2013. When Graves stepped in as acting CIO, she also stepped into the cross re as Con- gress demanded answers about Spires departure. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), unhappy that DHS had sent Graves to testify instead of Spires with very little notice, began pressing the agency for details on Spires unexplained leave and on Graves employment history at the agency. Seemingly unaware of Graves long tenure at DHS, Thompson wrote to the agency on April 19, 2013, that "it appears...Ms. Graves may have been converted from a con- tractor to a direct hire in the [Of ce of the CIO] and then placed in a position of authority over projects she initially served on as a contractor." Neither Graves nor other agency of cials knew where that allegation originated, but DHS Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Nelson Peacock eventually gave Thomp- son an of cial response. He noted that Graves had previ- ously served as acting CIO before Spires arrived and that she had been recruited from the private sector to work at TSA in 2003 because of her skills in business process re- engineering and post-merger integration. TSA was created before DHS and originally resided in the Transportation Department. The Homeland Security Act of 2002, however, called for the biggest U.S. government reorganization since World War II. Before joining TSA, Graves had 20 years of management consulting experience in the private sector. She was well versed in systems engineering, business processes, stra- tegic planning, nancial management, and mergers and acquisitions. Peacock said she was hired to focus "on creating one DHS from 22 legacy agencies." Building an IT community Those challenges --- integrating and consolidating while respecting DHS many missions --- continue to this day. Our approach to IT underpins our success. We started with an understanding that we need a community within DHS. We built DHS' of ce of IT from scratch. --- Margie Graves, DHS ZAID HAMID
March 15, 2014