The Department of Health and Human Services has appointed acting CIO Beth Killoran to take the role on a permanent basis, officials said Friday.
Killoran has served as HHS’ acting CIO since December, shortly after her predecessor Frank Baitman decided to leave government. Since joining HHS in October 2014, she’s also served as acting deputy CIO and executive director for the Office of IT Strategy, Policy and Governance.
“As our new CIO, Beth will focus sharply on collaborating with offices in HHS, and partners outside of the Department,” Mary Wakefield, HHS acting deputy secretary, wrote in an announcement. “She’ll direct high priority projects like our work on cybersecurity and privacy protection. She’ll engage in strategic IT investment planning, to make sure our resources are going to the most productive places. And she’ll keep our entire workforce at HHS moving safely and securely into the digital age.”
Killoran, one of FedScoop’s 50 Women in Tech for 2016, spent 11 years of her career at the Department of Homeland Security prior to joining HHS.
Much of Killoran’s continued focus as HHS CIO will be around promoting a “cyber-savvy workforce,” wrote Wakefield.
“Beth will continue the Cybersecurity Communication, Awareness, Response, and Education [CyberCARE] initiative, which provides weekly tips to all HHS staff on how to keep their data and work materials safe from cyber threats,” she said.
Another of Killoran’s cyber initiatives will target phishing. “We want everyone working at HHS to quickly identify and report suspicious emails, so Beth and her team will help us conduct simulated, real-world phishing attempts in a safe environment,” Wakefield’s announcement says.
“Beth and her team will also continue to share knowledge throughout the Department in our non-technical and easy-to-understand cybersecurity discussion series.”
Finally, Killoran will pilot a workforce development project “to identify and define the requirements for an IT workforce today, and the requirements they’ll need to meet in the future,” Wakefield wrote. “Through this project, we’ll determine the best ways to maintain a workforce at HHS that is as tech-savvy as possible.”
Killoran has long campaigned to fix her department’s weakened and understaffed cyber and IT workforce — and she points at the HR process as a big part of the problem.
[Read more: HHS official: Recruitment process ‘broken’]
“We’ve created so much bureaucracy that we’ve put ourselves in a corner where we cannot be competitive … and I think it’s the difference between the federal government and the private sector right now,” Killoran said during a February panel discussion on women in technology held by the nonprofit advocacy group AFFIRM.
More than 40 percent of her department’s cyber and infrastructure positions remain vacant, she said then.
“It’s very hard to get the great people in that want to come.”