Scott Blackburn resigns as acting VA CIO

scott blackburn former va acting CIO 

Scott Blackburn (right, shown here with Government Matters host Francis Rose, has resigned as acting CIO of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Scott Blackburn, acting CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs, resigned his position effective immediately on April 17.

Blackburn announced the news on Twitter, calling it a "bittersweet moment in my career."

Blackburn joined VA in November 2014, and served as an adviser to Secretary Bob McDonald and as executive director of the MyVA Task Force and briefly as interim deputy secretary of the department. He took on the role of acting CIO and acting assistant secretary of the information and technology at VA when Rob Thomas resigned in September 2017.

"My effort has always been about better caring for Veterans regardless of Presidential administration, Republican or Democrat – and I have been honored to serve alongside both in a bipartisan way," Blackburn wrote in a resignation letter posted with his tweet. "I want to thank Secretary McDonald and Secretary [David] Shulkin for creating these tremendous opportunities."

Bill James is VA's principal deputy CIO and he's the senior person at the Office of Information and Technology at the moment, an agency spokesperson told FCW. An acting CIO has not been named.

Blackburn's departure comes amid a top leadership shuffle at VA. Shulkin recently left the agency – although there is still some dispute about whether he was fired or resigned. The agency is currently being led by Robert Wilkie, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. According to the White House, the appointment of a Senate-confirmed leader at another agency rather than following the established line of succession at VA is allowed for under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

President Donald Trump appointed the White House physician, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, to lead VA. Jackson recently met Sen. Johnny Iskason (R-Ga.), the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, but a confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The VA CIO is in charge of a $4 billion agency-wide budget. The department is in the midst of a large-scale cloud migration and a plan to replace its homegrown electronic health record system Vista with a commercial solution from health software firm Cerner. The goal is to use the same system that is being implemented at the Department of Defense to promote data interoperability between the VA's and DOD's massive health care systems.

The electronic health record modernization effort is being conducted outside of the OI&T organization by a program management group with its own budget line. That effort is funded at about $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2018. The contract with Cerner has yet to be signed.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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