Deputy Federal CIO Maria Roat said today she will retire from government service on March 31, capping off a Federal career that began with U.S. Navy service in 1981 and has since led ever-upward through the ranks of Federal IT leadership.

In remarks to MeriTalk today, Roat confirmed her retirement plans and left plenty of room for any next steps that might come along.

“I have no future plans,” she said with enthusiasm. “You might find me off the grid somewhere, hiking.”

“It’s been wonderful,” Roat said today of her government service, while calling out “all of the wonderful people I’ve worked with for all these years.”

“The CIOs in Federal government are some of the smartest and hardest working people I’ve ever worked with, and I look forward to what they deliver on next,” she said.

“The Federal government is an amazing place to work,” Roat added. “I’ve said this a thousand times, there are things you’re going to do working for the Federal government – innovative, creative, and technical things – that you’ll never do anywhere else.”

The path of Roat’s government career illuminates a roadmap through the modern era of Federal IT operations, strategy, and change.

Springboarding from a 25-year career in the Navy and Naval Reserve with the rank of Master Chief, Roat joined the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2004. She rose rapidly through agency ranks including stints as CISO at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, chief of staff at DHS headquarters Office of CIO, and director of the FedRAMP program from 2013 to 2014.

She left DHS to become chief technology officer at the Department of Transportation from 2014 to 2016, then moved to the Small Business Administration (SBA) as the agency’s CIO in 2016.

In 2020, Roat moved up to the deputy Federal CIO position, serving first with Federal CIO Suzette Kent, and now with Federal CIO Clare Martorana.

Along the way, she has been a vocal and vibrant force for promoting Federal IT modernization, an evangelist for cloud service adoption by government agencies, and a stalwart at the Technology Modernization Fund, where she is a board member.

Her leadership at SBA during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic – described in detail in MeriTalk’s CIO Crossroads interview series – to help quickly enable the distribution of hundreds of billions in Federal aid remains a study in successful crisis management.

Outpouring of Praise

The outpouring of congratulations and thanks from current and former ranks of senior Federal IT leadership also tells the story of Roat’s work.

“Maria Roat has had a remarkable career serving our country – first as a military service member, and then as a Federal IT leader,” said Martorana.

“The role of the Deputy Federal CIO is crucial in providing a cross-government view of agency challenges and identifying opportunities to scale secure technology and sound data-management practices across government,” she said. “We are grateful for Maria’s many contributions to our team, and we’re excited to see where her journey takes her next.”

“Experience, depth, breadth, and energy make her unique, and it’s one of the reasons she has been such a great asset,” Kent told MeriTalk today.

“You talk to her team members and they love working for her, you talk to her business partners, and they love working with her,” she said. “You talk to the vendor community and you’ll hear that Maria always made time to engage, but engage with purpose,” and with focus on “what are we trying to accomplish, and why are we doing it.”

“Those are the things that not only I greatly admired, and the reasons that I wanted her in OMB – those are the things that are important to being able to get stuff done,” Kent said.

Reflecting on Roat’s work at SBA during the early part of the pandemic, Kent said, “Maria is as capable during crisis, as day to day. It was really great to work with someone who always had that can-do attitude.” She added, “it’s going to take some effort and creativity – I won’t say to replace Maria – but to pick up all the things that she has been doing.”

“I had the incredible pleasure in my Federal government IT career to partner with Maria for three and a half years as her deputy at SBA,” said Guy Cavallo, who is now CIO at the Office of Personnel Management. “She is an incredible leader and the Federal government will truly miss her.”

“Maria set the bar for the three Cs – competence, commitment, and creativity … and one more – cricket,” said MeriTalk Founder Steve O’Keeffe. “We salute you Maria, and thank you for everything you’ve done for our nation.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.