Twenty Chief Data Officers of leading U.S. federal government departments and agencies came together to celebrate the launch of CDO Magazine’s Federal Forum in Washington, DC, November 16.
“The U.S. federal data leaders are doing work that is impacting the lives of all U.S. citizens and the cause of democracy around the globe,” says Steve Wanamaker, CDO Magazine Founder and Publisher. “CDO Magazine is honored to serve these leaders and support their work that will help shape the 21st century.”
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Exchanging insights and taking questions from their peers on “CDO Challenges and Opportunities for 2024” were panel speakers Kirsten Dalboe, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission CDO; Robert King, U.S. Department of Energy CDO; Beth Puchek, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services CDO; and moderator Adita Karkera, Deloitte CDO, Government and Public Services.
“We had a fantastic time discussing the opportunities and challenges of federal CDOs,” says Dalboe. “Building a strong data culture is paramount, both ensuring our data teams understand their role in the ecosystem as well as the broader federal workforce, who all play a role in the data lifecycle, whether that be ensuring the data is accurate at the collection point, or whether that be in analyzing and using that data to support data-driven decision-making.”
Dalboe continues, “When facing the tsunami of innovation, transformation, and new technology coming at us, both in government and industry – successfully enabling AI/ML, Digital Transformation and Application Modernization, Customer Experience – none of these things will be possible or successful without data."
She further adds, "CDOs have a crucial role in building strong data programs and every organization needs to ensure that their CDO and data teams have a seat at the table and are integrated into the strategies and program enablement of these important initiatives to ensure their success. I’m grateful for the collaboration and partnerships with my federal CDO peers as we move forward together to ensure we are all successful as we mature and strengthen our data programs to serve the needs of our organizations and the public.”
According to King, “The inaugural CDO Federal Forum Executive Mixer, hosted and sponsored by CDO Magazine, was an amazing opportunity to get federal CDO leaders together in an intimate and collaborative setting to connect on top-of-mind topics within our data leadership community.”
King emphasizes, “The key word here is ‘community.’ The formalization of the CDO role into law is nearing its five-year anniversary, and we now have formal CDOs at all federal agencies and numerous sub-agencies – and a majority of us are the initial CDOs for our organizations. It is forums, such as this, that are helping us enhance our networks, and accelerate the collaboration and trust across our community, which we are then using as an accelerator to mature and improve our capabilities and value within our respective agencies.”
Continuing on the topic, King adds, “The ongoing ‘AI Tsunami’ is another, but incredibly powerful, forcing function for the government to invest in and develop highly defined, curated data pipelines and products. These data products are foundational to the government’s ability to adopt explainable and ethical AI – data cannot be separated from AI."
"For a long while now, government agencies have recognized the need to increase data literacy and culture, only to experience mixed results. The recent AI guidelines and capabilities are going to require all stakeholders vested in leveraging AI to get ‘their house in order’ in terms of data governance, stewardship, and inventory – and this will start with data and AI leaders, but certainly will not be limited to them. AI has ushered in an exciting, albeit tumultuous, time for government leaders.”
Karkera agrees, saying, "I thought the event was really special – it was a unique, off-air community conversation between peers of federal Chief Data Officers.” She adds, “As a former government CDO, I could connect with the energy these CDOs are channeling into their organizations to embrace data’s power for decision-making and as the foundation for effective use of emerging technologies."
Key takeaways from the discussion on CDO Challenges and Opportunities for 2024 were:
Agencies each have a unique culture and leadership structure around their data, impacting how resources are allocated and decisions are made.
The recent Executive Order on AI is an incredible opportunity for CDOs, bringing the power of data front and center.
The data house must be in order to ensure the proper use of AI. The federal CDO community members are all at different stages of preparing for and implementing AI, yet broadly they recognize it as an opportunity if implemented with a robust data infrastructure.
CDOs are uniquely positioned to address the data literacy and cultural barriers they see in their organizations.
Executives participating in the CDO Magazine Federal Forum Executive Mixer included:
Thomas Dabolt, U.S. Department of the Interior Director, Information Management; Kirsten Dalboe, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission CDO; Fredy Diaz, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy CDO; Marseta Dill, Federal Aviation Administration Deputy CDO; Chandra Donelson, U.S. Department of the Army Deputy CDO; Joshua Linard, U.S. Department of Energy Geospatial Information Officer; Robert King, U.S. Department of Energy CDO; Justin Marsico, Bureau of the Fiscal Service Assistant Commissioner & CDO; Richard Patterson, Defense Security Cooperation Agency CDO; Bryan Pendleton, U.S. Department of Homeland Security CDO, I&A; Beth Puchek, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services CDO; Carin Quiroga, U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement CDO; Diane Schmidt, U.S. Government Accountability Office Managing Director, CDO; Parth Tikiwala, Office of Management & Budget Director (Acting), Technology Modernization & Data; Trang Tran, U.S. Customs & Border Protection Deputy CDO; Eileen Vidrine, U.S. Department of the Air Force Chief Data & Artificial Intelligence Officer; Oliver Wise, U.S. Department of Commerce CDO; Michelle Zebrowski, U.S. Customs & Border Protection CDO; Adita Karkera, Deloitte CDO, Government & Public Services; Lorenzo Ross, Deloitte Technology Fellow; Harlan Simpson, Deloitte Manager; Steve Wanamaker, CDO Magazine Publisher; and Camille Prado, Global Editor.