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Karen Evans, Chief Information Officer at the Department of Homeland Security, discusses her work as the new CIO at DHS, initiatives that have come to the forefront during the pandemic, and plans for building the cybersecurity workforce

The Department of Homeland Security is reevaluating both its cybersecurity operations processes and its cyber workforce under new Chief Information Officer Karen Evans. Evans, whose service in government includes administrator for e-government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget (now the Federal CIO position), and Assistant Secretary of Energy for Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response, took over as DHS CIO June 1st.

“We’re putting together the staffing plan that we need for the future,” Evans said on Government Matters Sunday. “We’re analyzing our Security Operations Centers and Network Operations Centers. We are … consolidating these, so we’ll have a Network Security Operations Center. What that really is going to look at is, how you keep the operations going.”

Evans said her experience at Energy informs how she’s approaching both reviews.

“This puts network operators – think of them as first responders – doing the triage, keeping the operations going, and handing it up the chain,” Evans said. “Cyber analysts can look at it … and hand it off to the intelligence community [and] CISA as they’re looking across the federal network, while we’ll keep things going for the department.”

The workforce evaluation, Evans said, is an ongoing collaboration with DHS’s Chief Human Capital Officer, Angela Bailey. “She’s working on … the Cyber Talent Management System. I’m so excited to be able to use it. It’s skills-based. It will make us competitive with private industry. [We will] get the people, do the skills assessments, get them on the career path, and offer them a salary that is competitive with the private sector.”

Evans said her collaboration with Bailey on workforce initiatives is an example of the relationships she already had, or is building, with her new colleagues in DHS’s CXO suite. “I couldn’t ask for a better set of lines-of-business owners,” Evans said, referencing a phrase (and set of initiatives) she established at OMB. “We (CHCO Bailey, Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa, and Chief Financial Officer Troy Edgar) meet three times a week, at a minimum.” Evans offered Correa as another example of the partnerships she will leverage. “To do data center consolidation, I … have to have a partner with Soraya, and she is right there.”

Evans’s current job is generating some reflection on policies she instituted in her previous post as e-gov administrator at OMB. “It’s interesting to see some of the unintended consequences of how you thought a policy is going to work,” Evans observed. “Now I have the opportunity to know, ‘this is what we intended.’ I can leverage on that, and build upon that, and try to move things out of the way, so the department can achieve the mission for the Secretary and for the President.”

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