McFarland poised for the VA slot

Department of Veteran's Affairs

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Robert McFarland breezed through yesterday's hearing before the Senate's Veteran's Affairs Committee, setting a clear path for his impending confirmation as assistant secretary for information and technology of the Veterans Affairs Department.

A U.S. Army veteran, McFarland said his military experience fed his desire to join the VA. He owes a great debt to the military for his success, he said, "I can't think of a better way to repay that debt than to serve veterans."

McFarland, formerly a vice president at Dell Inc., faced questioning from committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), who was the only committee member seated for the hearing. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) was on hand to introduce McFarland and support his nomination.

Sen. Specter questioned McFarland's Dell background and raised possible concerns about the company receiving preferential treatment. McFarland said that his background gave him knowledge of procurement rules and that his ethics would prevent any questionable activity.

"I will follow those rules," McFarland said. "It's not only a matter of law, it's a matter of ethics."

When speaking of serving veterans, McFarland stressed that "nothing we do can interrupt payments to our veterans." He also pointed out that he considers the VA's customers to include its own employees and veterans.

McFarland was Dell's vice president of government relations. Prior to that, he was general manager of the company's government sector. While at Dell, McFarland oversaw the company's relationship with 1,200 military and federal government customers and more than 28,000 state and local government customers.

The VA has been without a permanent assistant secretary for information and technology since June 4, when John Gauss retired. Since then, Deputy Secretary Edward Meagher has been acting assistant secretary and chief information officer.

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