The Biden administration continues its push for digital modernization in the government’s outdated and vulnerable IT infrastructure with the appointment of Clare Martorana as the new Federal Chief Information Officer. She assumes the new role after serving in the same position for the Office of Personnel Management since 2019. A veteran of the elite United States Digital Service (USDS) department, Martorana is immediately tasked with managing and responding to the fallout from the 2020 SolarWinds security breach, in addition to strengthening government cybersecurity from further attacks.
The new CIO will also work to enable greater access to the vast network of government websites, including those responsible for online voter registration and digital election information. The latter has been of keen focus for President Biden, who, alongside congressional Democrats, is determined to make voting easier for all Americans, especially traditionally disenfranchised groups.
Martorana is uniquely qualified for the new role thanks to years of experience as an executive with health technology companies WebMD and Everyday Health, as well as her recent involvement in the USDS. Previously in 2016, she joined the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), where she ran similar initiatives to update IT infrastructure and improve veterans’ access to benefits and other online resources.
Her appointment follows other key hires within the Biden administration’s overhaul of government IT management, including Chris DeRusha as Chief Information Security Officer. It also comes hot on the heels of President Biden’s signature pandemic relief legislation, the American Recovery Plan, which infuses the federal Technology Modernization Fund with $1 billion, an exponential increase to the program that could finance sweeping IT improvement projects. In her new role, Martorana will attempt to replicate the successful strategies she enacted in her time at the VA to revamp and update the vast network of outdated government websites, many of which crumbled under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic.
The TMF, a revolving fund that awards loans to government agencies for promising IT modernization programs, has been beleaguered by insufficient funding and complicated processes that have discouraged necessary programs. In her time with the VA, Martorana led successful transformation initiatives that include an award-winning renovated website through which veterans can access essential services. As federal CIO, she is responsible for repeating the process across departments and agencies mired by legacy IT systems and disorganized departmental infrastructure.
Her success with the VA proves not only that she is capable of taking on such a daunting challenge but that such large-scale improvements are actually possible. The SolarWinds attack exposed some tremendous vulnerabilities in federal cybersecurity, and COVID-19 stress-tested government websites. Martorana assumes the new role with President Biden’s full support for immediate reform, and with the significant increase in TMF funding, she has an opportunity to fortify the U.S. from future digital infrastructure failures.