Q&A with OMB’s Lisa Schlosser on Big Data, Duplication & Cybersecurity

Lisa Schlosser, OMB

Lisa Schlosser is Deputy Associate Administrator in the Office of E-Government and Information Technology, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Executive Office of the President. She has held various roles within the federal government, as Principal Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, and the Director, Office of Information Collection, Office of Environmental Information, for the Environmental Protection Agency. She previously served as CIO for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Schlosser has also worked in the private sector as Vice-President, Business Operations and Incident Response Services, for Global Integrity, and was a Senior Manager for Ernst & Young LLP. She received a B.A. in Political Science from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. degree in Administration from Central Michigan University.

Schlosser spoke with WashingtonExec about her role as Federal Deputy CIO, her approach to big data, staying safe against cyber attacks, decreasing duplication, how military service prepped her for the industry, and more.

WashingtonExec: Could you tell us more about your background and your current role at the Office of Management & Budget?

Lisa Schlosser: I’ve been really fortunate in my life and career to serve in a lot of different roles that have helped to position me pretty well for this current job at OMB. I started out my career in the military, where I was an active duty Military Intelligence Officer for approximately six years. From Korea to Arizona to Maryland, I had the opportunity to serve in amazing locations, and do different jobs. I stayed in the military reserves after I got off of active duty for a total of just over 29 years in various statuses (active duty, reserves, inactive reserves), and I just retired in October.

After the military, I served as a contractor for various federal agencies, worked as a Senior Consultant with Ernst & Young in the private sector, and then came back into government. I wanted to go back into public service so I served in various technology and cyber security roles in agencies like DOT, HUD, EPA, and now here at OMB. At OMB, I have the honor and privilege of serving as Steven Van Roekel’s deputy and my role is to operationalize Steve’s vision and the vision of our leadership across the federal government.

WashingtonExec: What has been your approach to big data? Are you seeing any trends in the industry?

Lisa Schlosser: We’ve been monitoring big data initiatives and reports from industry. Steve, coming from his background in the private sector, challenged the federal IT community to look across the federal government, and to ask the fundamental question “what does the government need to do, institutionally, to take advantage of, and to manage, big data?” The result has been initiatives such as the digital government strategy, which sets out several overarching principals: 1) create an information-centric approach to IT management; 2) create shared platforms where we can; 3) integrate a customer-centric approach into everything we do; and 3) ensure that innovation occurs in a way that ensures the safe and secure delivery and use of digital services.

We also said, “How are we going to handle the storage requirements of all of the data that is available to decision-makers – through everything from transactional systems to social media platforms.” One of the ways that we are going to be able to do that is to continue to promote a Cloud First policy.
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“Initiatives such as the digital government strategy will ensure that we open up data, make our content available so that it can be exchanged, securely, with the right stakeholders at the right time, through any device.”

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WashingtonExec: What technology investment and recommendations do you have for the industry over the next year?

Lisa Schlosser: As opposed to saying a specific technology, I always encourage private industry to think about where we want to go as a government, and then think about what technology solutions we have to get us there. To capitalize on emerging technologies, we have adopted a cut and invest strategy for federal IT – we are continuously looking for ways to cut underperforming and and/or duplicative investments, and to reinvest in innovative technologies that that support initiatives such as mobility and big data.

WashingtonExec: What are you currently doing to decrease duplication?

Lisa Schlosser: PortfolioStat is the cornerstone of our approach. PortfolioStat is designed to help us work with agencies to identify the entire portfolio of technology investments that an agency has and to identify where there opportunities to eliminate duplication, consolidate where we can, and take the opportunity of any cost savings or cost avoidance to invest in innovative solutions.

WashingtonExec: Cyber security has been a big topic as of late. What are your tips on staying safe against cyber attacks?

Lisa Schlosser: I’ve learned over my career that it really takes senior leadership to understand how important and critical cyber is to our nation, as well as to our agency’s ability to protect critical information. The key is to integrate cybersecurity considerations throughout agency processes – to include strategic planning, capital planning, systems development, and HR planning. From an operational standpoint, agencies should be adopting a continuous monitoring approach as the core of their cybersecurity strategy.

WashingtonExec: How would you say your military experience prepped you for your roles in government?

Lisa Schlosser: The military trains you on how to be a leader, how to move large and complex organizations through very difficult times, and to overcome very difficult challenges. While I continue to learn to be a better leader, serving in the military provided me the foundation for leadership that I’ve been able to capitalize on throughout my career.

WashingtonExec: Do you find that it is a bigger hurdle to get people in the right mindset of releasing the data or do you find the right technology a bigger issue?

Lisa Schlosser: I think it’s really kind of a combination of both, but I think we have to change the culture by demontrating the power of opening data up for the public, and the government, to use in innovative ways. I think the challenge is coming up with the right mission and business needs. Once you do that, the technology tends to flow the right way.

WashingtonExec: Do you have any examples of how you have been trying to change the mindset of the federal government in general?

Lisa Schlosser: There are a couple of things– we launched data.gov a couple of years back and that started to get people thinking that opening up data, and releasing this data to the public, is a good idea. The first phase was to simply post data sets, , and then we began Involving various stakeholders in determining new and innovative uses of the data, which can be seen at data.gov.

WashingtonExec: You talked about how you want to have more focus on data than on integration systems – could you elaborate on that a little bit?

Lisa Schlosser: A lot of what we’ve done in IT historically is just think about what technology to use. Am I going to use a certain database, a certain desktop solution or a certain device. Today, we are thinking about what datasets we have in the government, where are they, and how can we use this data more effectively by opening it up. We are understanding that we need to think about data from the beginning of a system development life cycle – how we tag data, how we set up metadata structures, and that we need to build APIs in from the beginning as opposed to just adding them on at the end so we can more effectively share data.

WashingtonExec: What keeps you up at night?

Lisa Schlosser: I do think about how we can provide better service to the citizens. Our nation is expecting the federal government to help their lives and to build and sustain our great nation. I also think a lot about how we can cut the non-value added type of things from what we are doing – invest in things that are really going to move us forward quicker.

WashingtonExec: If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?

Lisa Schlosser: I went to school for journalism and then political science and then pre-law. I somehow ended up in technology along the way.
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“If I weren’t doing this I would be doing some of those things that I initially aspired to, maybe writing or going into law.”

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WashingtonExec: What is something that most people may not know about you?

Lisa Schlosser: I am an absolute football junky. I watch it. I read about it. . It’s just something that I absolutely love to do and the worst time of the year is the week after the Super Bowl for me. I love it! I’m a diehard Pittsburgh fan so I at least have hockey to go towards after football is over.

WashingtonExec: Those are all of my questions. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Lisa Schlosser: I wanted to reiterate the importance of cybersecurity. We need senior leadership to be engaged in making this a top priority, with a focus on the Cross-Agency Priority Goals.

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