As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to lead the federal government come January 21, 2021, his office has tapped several former government IT leaders to volunteer on his transition team.
The Biden transition team includes hundreds of officials who are prepared to continue operations across agencies, many of which are in the midst of IT modernization initiatives. The current administration has so far refused to acknowledge the election results and stymied agencies from collaborating with the Biden transition team — a move experts warn as damaging to governance and security.
The list includes some former high-ranking technology officials, with most teams including at least one or two technology- or cyber policy-focused volunteers. The Biden transition team posted the full list of agencies and their review teams on its website Tuesday. Several names are familiar from the Obama administration: Michael Hornsby, a former acting CIO in the White House; the first U.S. CTO, Aneesh Chopra; former deputy U.S. CTO, Nicole Wong; and many alums of the U.S. Digital Service, set up under the Obama White House to help agencies modernize.
The vast majority of people currently working on agency review teams are not paid, with a handful receiving compensation from the Transition entity itself, according to the website. Once the Trump administration recognizes Biden’s election, federal employees will be detailed to work on the transition and paid through funds appropriated to the General Services Administration.
“During a transition, it’s often said that people are policy: the appointment of leaders across government who prioritize tech innovation and aren’t afraid to shake things up will be critically important to set agency priorities for the coming years,” Nate Ashton, managing director at Dcode, a government technology accelerator, told FedScoop.
It’s unclear what the impact a delayed transition will have on agencies’ modernization initiatives, but Ashton remains optimistic a new Biden administration will be able to continue digital transformation across the government.
“The biggest risks we see are in a delayed budget process and in missed opportunities to fund and sustain the digital transformation that has accelerated at most agencies this year in response to increased remote work and online citizen services during the pandemic,” he said.
Many of the transition officials served as career government employees or had experience as appointees in the Obama administration. Many come from legal, policy or management backgrounds. Here’s a thorough — but not necessarily exhaustive — list of transition officials with IT and cyber backgrounds, based on the volunteers’ public résumés:
Department of Commerce
- Colleen Chien was a senior advisor to the federal chief technology officer in the Obama administration. She currently is a fellow at the Stanford Computational Policy Lab.
- Denice Ross helped launch the White House Police Data Initiative as a senior advisor for community solutions in the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama administration. Before that she was a presidential innovation fellow.
Department of Defense
- Victor Garcia worked in the U.S. Digital Service during the Obama Administration, focusing on U.S. Customs and Immigration Services.
- Michelle Howard, the first female four-star admiral, served as vice-chief of naval operations, the Navy’s No. 2 uniformed officer. Since leaving the service, she has taught classes on the impact of cybersecurity in national security policy at George Washington University.
- Andrew Hunter, director of the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at CSIS, has worked in emerging technology acquisition. He was chief of staff to former top acquisition officials in DOD and lead the Joint Rapid Acquisition Task Force when he worked in the department.
Department of Education
- Keia Cole is the head of digital experience at the life insurance company Mass Mutual. She also founded the company’s digital research and development rotational program to educate employees on emerging technology.
Department of Energy
- Hannah Lee has experience in software development and is currently leading the California government’s COVID-19 website effort.
Department of Health and Human Services
- Mina Hsiang cofounded and directed the HHS Digital Service, a branch of USDS, between February 2016 and November 2017, having previously advised the White House on health data.
- Natalie Kates cofounded the HHS Digital Service, where she worked for three years, starting in 2016.
- Geoff Roth was an Obama appointee to the Indian Health Service, where he worked in part on modernization. More recently Roth founded Inaji, a tech company geared toward American Indian health.
Department of Homeland Security
- Paul Rosen worked in the upper ranks of DHS during the Obama administration, where his legal duties covered cybersecurity policy and law. His LinkedIn profile lists experience in cybersecurity, and in the private sector, he continues to work on cyber investigations and related issues.
- Robert Silvers was one of DHS’s top cybersecurity policy officials during the Obama administration, serving as assistant secretary for cyber policy. In the private sector, he continues advising on cybersecurity law and investigations, according to his LinkedIn.
Department of Interior
- Chris Goranson worked as a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the Department of Interior on data transparency and digital services from 2014 to 2015. He then worked as a product manager at 18F in the General Service Administration until 2018.
Department of State
- Frances Colón worked advising the senior-most officials at the State Department on technology issues. In government, she worked on public-private partnerships and emerging technology policy issues, according to her LinkedIn.
- Raphael Majma helped launch State Digital Service, an offshoot of USDS that worked on cybersecurity and other digital challenges. Previously, Majma worked at 18F, the General Service Administration’s tech startup, working on software policy.
Department of Treasury
- Liyan Chang worked as a senior adviser to the administrator at U.S. Digital Service in 2015 to 2017. He also has experience in artificial intelligence research and worked to help fix Healthcare.gov in 2014.
- Nicole Isaac founded “Code the Streets,” a non-profit aimed to “maximize access to employment and opportunity resources for inner-city youth through technology,” according to her LinkedIn. She has also worked on federal technology workforce policy in the White House in the Obama administration.
Department of Veterans Affairs
- Andrea Ippolito helped stand up the VA’s Innovators Network while serving as a Presidential Innovation Fellow. She later directed the network aimed at advancing technology services in the VA’s operations.
Environmental Protection Agency
- Ann Dunkin is the former EPA CIO and currently works as the CTO of state and local governments for Dell Technologies.
General Services Administration
- Michael Hornsby was acting CIO in the Executive Office of the President for nine months in 2015, topping a career in federal IT. Since then, he has worked at Salesforce.
- Natalie Evans Harris founded The Data Cabinet as a senior policy adviser to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer under the Obama Administration. This community of federal data scientist professionals worked together to “leverage data as a strategic asset,” according to her LinkedIn. She also founded the Global Data Ethics Project.
- Sean Roche served as the associate deputy director for digital innovation at the CIA from 2015 to 2019, a role where he was responsible for cyber intelligence, open source collection, secure global communications, worldwide mission information systems, data curation, and data science.
- Vince Stewart is the former deputy director of U.S. Cyber Command, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and commanding general of Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command.
National Security Council
- Austin Lin was deputy director for IT in the White House’s IT shop. In his time in the Obama White House, he led IT modernization initiatives and technical projects. Since departing, he has worked at Facebook and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in technical program management positions.
- Nicole Wong served in the Obama administration as deputy U.S. chief technology officer, where she focused on internet, privacy and innovation policy, according to her LinkedIn. Previously, she had high-ranking policy and legal positions at Google and Twitter.
Office of Management and Budget
- Mark Schwartz is the former CIO of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2010 to 2017 and a proponent of agile and DevOps practices. He currently works at Amazon Web Services.
Office of Personnel Management
- Matt Collier had a brief stint in the Defense Digital Service, a branch of USDS. In 2015, led a secretary of defense-sponsored sprint team for improving civilian human resources IT systems.
United States Digital Service
- Matt Bailey served in the Office of the CIO under two presidents, launching governmentwide open-source and legislative data initiatives. He also worked on open data efforts at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from 2013 to 2015.
- Andrew Nacin was at USDS for nearly four years. Nacin led teams streamlining refugee and immigration tech processes. Nacin also conducted a rapid review of OPM’s security vulnerabilities after its 2014 data breach.
United States Postal Service
- Aneesh Chopra was the first U.S. chief technology officer from 2009 to 2012.
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Pav Singh spent 2011 and 2012 as a senior adviser to deputy national security adviser Mike Froman. More recently he studied how machine learning software and advanced analytics can address challenges across financial services, health care, and oil and gas at the Brookings Institution.
- Erin Szulman spent nearly five years at OSTP during the Obama administration, developing the National Strategic Computing Initiative to maintain U.S. leadership in high-performance computing.