President Joe Biden is appointing Clare Martorana, a veteran of the U.S. Digital Service and a former health tech executive, to oversee White House efforts to upgrade the government’s creaky tech infrastructure. As Chief Information Officer for the United States, Martorana will be in charge of bolstering the federal government’s cybersecurity, modernizing IT systems, and making government websites more accessible for all citizens.
Martorana has also been tasked with ensuring that digital election information and online voter registration are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities and people with limited understanding of English. This part of the role is particularly important for Biden, who recently issued an executive order that aims to strengthen voting access.
Martorana, who previously held the same position at the Office of Personnel Management, has more than a decade of experience as an executive at health technology companies, include WebMD and Everyday Health. In October 2016, she joined the USDS’s team at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, where she led an effort to modernize the agency’s digital infrastructure and make it easier for veterans to access and manage their benefits online.
At the VA, Martorana used the principles of human-centered design to bring veterans into the process of designing and developing technology. “From rebuilding Veteran-facing applications to creating a personalized dashboard where Veterans can see their benefits in one place, our approach was the same: Veterans were at the center of every decision we made,” wrote Martorana and USDS design director Kat Jurick about their work at the agency in 2019. She and her team received feedback from more than 2,000 veterans leading up to the 2018 launch of a new centralized website through which vets can access services. The Veteran Affairs Digital Services team later won a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal for the site.
Now, Martorana will be undertaking an even bigger challenge. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has highlighted just how broken many government websites are, from unemployment portals built using a 60-year-old programming language that crumbled under high demand to a national vaccine rollout that is lacking a comprehensive government database to provide information on how to access life-saving shots. Beyond the pandemic, the U.S. government recently suffered one of the worst cybersecurity breaches in its history—the SolarWinds hack, where 11 government agencies were infiltrated.
The position of Chief Information Officer of the United States was first created by President Barack Obama. Martorana will work closely with deputy CIO and career civil servant Maria Roat in overseeing the Office of Electronic Government at the White House Office of Management and Budget.