UPDATED: McFarland resigns as VA CIO

Robert McFarland, chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, has resigned effective April 30.

VA Secretary James Nicholson announced McFarland's plans late yesterday and said he would be returning to his hometown of Austin, Texas, to retire.

McFarland, a Texas native and retired Dell Computer executive, came out of retirement to take the VA CIO job in January 2004.

“Under his leadership and initiative, VA has strengthened its position as the world leader in the development and use of an electronic medical records system, and has made great progress in modernizing the department’s vast Information and Technology system,” Nicholson said in a press statement.

McFarland, an Army veteran, was instrumental in gaining control of the VA's $1.2 billion IT budget. When he first arrived at the VA, the CIO's office had direct responsibility for only about $50 million. He believed the department was spending more money on IT than was needed and began an effort to consolidate IT management.

In an interview today, McFarland said the consolidation and reorganization will start happening before he leaves.

“I believe this resignation may be a catalyst to get other things done,” he said. “I served a role here as a change agent, and when you serve the role as change agent, quite often you get a contentious environment, and sometimes that contentious environment is not up to getting the things we want done.”

“I had to be a bulldog, a bulldozer to get some of this done,” he added.

When asked what he plans to do after leaving on April 30, McFarland said, “There are a bunch of trout up in the streams in Utah that have my name on it.”

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