Gauss resigning as CIO at VA

John Gauss, the chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, announced his resignation today, saying he wanted to take a break from information technology after 34 years of helping to bring cutting-edge technology into government.

Gauss told his staff that he wanted to take a breather and then decide on what to do next. His deputy, Edward Meagher, will become the acting CIO at VA.

In an interview with Federal Computer Week, Gauss said it is time to move on.

"We had an ambitious agenda, and we put a lot of things in place," Gauss said. "Most of the items have reached a critical mass where they are going to be able to carry on whether I'm here or not."

He said he was taking a couple of months off and will decide whether he wants to "get back in the fray with a full-time job, do part-time consulting or just play golf."

During his tenure at the VA, Gauss was known as one of the most innovative and creative CIOs in government. Under his direction, the VA developed an enterprise architecture plan for the first time. It also developed a secure virtual private network for employees and cut costs by eliminating redundancies.

Gauss faced many obstacles, including an entrenched culture in which every VA hospital developed and operated its own IT systems and spent money without approval from the central office.

Under Gauss's direction, VA got top grades from the General Accounting Office, which reversed its criticism of the agency for its failures to tighten IT security and efficiently use technology to deliver services to veterans.

"VA has shown clear progress in addressing some of the critical weaknesses that have plagued its management of information technology," according to a report released at a Sept. 26, 2002, hearing of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

Harold Gracey, CIO at VA from 1998 to 2000, said Gauss "developed and pursued his vision of what needed to be done at VA. He was clearly a change agent and a man of action."

Gauss retired from the Navy in May 2001 as a rear admiral and commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. He was selected to become the CIO at VA in July 2001.

Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Veteran's Affairs Committee on Oversight and Investigations, said Gauss' shoes will be hard to fill.

"I applaud Admiral Gauss' achievements in transforming and integrating VA's bureaucratically disparate and stovepiped information technology systems," Buyer said. "Under Admiral Gauss' tenure, the VA is evolving into an integrated information technology system. He initiated a disciplined procurement system and vigorously reinforced the department's cybersecurity."

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