Education CIO to step down following ethics probe

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Education Department chief information officer Danny Harris, who has been with the agency for more than 30 years, announced he will retire at the end of the month. Harris gave notice weeks after a contentious hearing on his conduct before Congress, after which he collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital.

Deputy CIO Steve Grewal will serve as interim director, according to an agency spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman said Harris, 56, had thought about retiring earlier but decided to stay on through the Obama administration’s 30-day cybersecurity sprint, to beef up security practices in response to data breaches at federal agencies.

“Having made significant progress in recent months towards the Department’s cybersecurity goals, and because he did not want to risk becoming a distraction to the Department’s critical ongoing cybersecurity work, Danny has decided that now is the right time for him to retire and explore opportunities outside the Department,” said spokeswoman Dorie Nolt. “We are grateful to Danny for his decades of service and wish him and his family well in their future endeavors.”

Harris came under intense scrutiny earlier this month when members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform grilled him about running home theater installation and auto businesses without reporting the income on his taxes. He also hired agency employees to complete some outside work, but argued that he was simply acting as a mentor to them.

After the four-hour-long hearing, Harris collapsed and had to be rushed to George Washington University Hospital. He was in stable condition and has since gone back to work, according to a spokeswoman.

Harris had also previously come under fire for using outdated technology and allowing major security loopholes to mark the agency. The agency also came under criticism when it scored an “F” on benchmarks set by the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act aimed at improving IT investment oversight.

Nolt said the agency will “move quickly to select a new CIO.”

Grewal, who has worked for the department for about five years, said in an interview last year that he planned to make the agency more agile and mobile, and even build an “app store.”

“The vision for us is to actually have a Department of Education app store where [employees] will be able to connect to a corporate app store where we can pick and choose the applications that are made available inside the department,” he said at the time.

Grewal previously served as the chief information security officer for the department and was responsible for implementing the Federal Information Security Management Act requirements, including developing and maintaining a nationwide cybersecurity program.

Reach the reporter at corinne.lestch@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @clestch and @edscoop_news.

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