VHA CIO loses power, leaves job

Gary Christopherson, the chief information officer at the Veterans Health Administration, has stepped down from his job following a reorganization that stripped him and two others of the authority to make independent information technology decisions.

Christopherson, along with two other VA agency CIOs, lost power in a restructuring that reassigned them as deputy CIOs reporting to the Department of Veterans Affairs CIO John Gauss.

VA Secretary Anthony Principi ordered the changes in August to gain greater control over money and management decisions. In the past, the CIOs at the VHA, the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Cemetery Administration had the authority to make decisions independently from the VA. But Principi said the decisions had to be centralized to create "One VA" — his goal since taking office.

In a memo to his staff, Christopherson said he would become a senior adviser effective Oct. 21, working on HealthePeople, a project across a number of federal agencies.

"We have begun HealthePeople, the strategy to reach out to many of our current and future partners to accomplish critical data and communications standards and to make available high-performance information systems for health care nationwide," said the Oct. 15 memo obtained by Federal Computer Week.

Robert Kolodner, 54, a psychiatrist who has worked for the VA for more than 20 years, will replace Christopherson as the acting VA deputy CIO for health.

Kolodner said his goal is to keep making progress and "move into a new architecture and the next-generation system that builds on what we currently have."

In his memo, Christopherson told his staff that they will have to be "even more of a team" than they have been. "You will need to be even more disciplined in your work than you have been to date. You will need to be even more open to new ideas and directions than you have been to date. Doing all that will result in the most successful building and enhancing of a health information system."

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