Federal CIO Clare Martorana emphasized today that the road to Federal agency IT improvements runs not only through agency CIO offices, but also needs to benefit from support from the entire organization’s executive suite.

During a keynote address at an online event organized by FCW, Martorana talked about her stint as CIO at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) from 2019 to 2021, and the degree to which support from agency leadership was necessary to make progress on the IT front.

“Agency C-suite leaders need to be aligned to enterprise IT and cybersecurity modernization,” she said.

“As a former CIO, I couldn’t do my job without the support and alignment of the CISO [chief information security officer], the chief financial officer, the chief acquisition officer, the chief human capital officer, the chief privacy officer of the agency and the senior leadership team,” she said.

“That C-suite for an agency really helped build an operational model, so that we can focus on the investment, deployment, and sustainment of our technology,” she said. “And it’s this C- suite model that will ensure agencies can deliver modern services to the public.”

“By working rapidly and seamlessly to get agencies aligned to this enterprise IT and cybersecurity mindset and modernization, we can achieve results – and we must,” she said. “Our adversaries are, as you all know, are quite aggressive.”

“As Federal CIO, I’m committed to supporting CIOs and agency leadership teams, as we move forward on this journey together,” she pledged.

Feds Have Plenty to Work With

Elsewhere during her remarks, the Federal CIO said the government already has plenty to work with to improve IT capabilities and citizen service, but that the vast sprawl of agencies that make up the government can be confusing to the outside observer.

“Federal IT makes me think about those moments when you stand in your closet staring at a bunch of clothes and thinking, ‘I have absolutely nothing to wear,’” she said.

“I think that’s how a lot of people think about Federal IT,” she continued. “At first glance, it may seem disorganized and out of style with things lurking in the background – a bit like trying to track down shadow IT to retire obsolete systems … but our closets across government are actually quite full.”

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“There’s a lot we can do with what we have, looking at items differently, mixing and matching, and coming up with something new and exciting,” she said. “To me, it means partnering across agency and department silos to help deliver better service, plugging in tech talent when we need to address critical problems, sharing playbooks instead of starting with that blank piece of paper, and designing with our users to deserve to deliver minimally viable products.”

Creating those minimally viable products, she said, “is where we can show our workforce what we can deliver today with the technology we have to improve customers’ experience when they interact with our agency.”

Zero Trust Policy Review

Martorana also recapped last week’s announcement of the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) awards by the TMF Board, and said the Office of Management Budget is “in the process of finalizing our zero trust strategy” after issuing a call for comment last month on its proposed Federal Zero Trust Strategy.

She said OMB has received “well over” 100 comments on the proposed strategy.

Citizen Service Focus

Martorana also reiterated from previous policy speeches her commitment to improving the government’s ability to use technology to provide more effective citizen services, and to “work across the government org-chart to improve service delivery for our citizens.”

“We’ve done it before, and we’re going to continue,” she pledged, “because it’s not our citizens’ job to figure out how to navigate across departments or agency silos to get the services they deserve. That’s our job.”

“By coming together as technologists informed by the massive amount of data that we collect across government, we can power an outstanding customer experience for the American people,” she said, adding, “I have not found a technical problem in government that we can’t solve.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.