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Trump picks Gfrerer to head VA IT

Department of Veterans Affairs (Photo: bakdc / Shutterstock)

President Donald Trump plans to nominate James Gfrerer of Virginia to be the Department of Veterans Affairs' assistant secretary for information and technology, the White House announced late on June 27. That post doubles as the VA's CIO, and is one of the handful of Senate-confirmed agency CIO jobs in the federal government.

A Naval Academy graduate and career officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, Gfrerer for the past three years has been an executive director with Ernst & Young, focusing on cybersecurity issues. Before that he spent nearly four years detailed to the State Department, where he helped coordinate interagency counterterrorism and cybersecurity efforts.

The VA has been without a permanent CIO since LaVerne Council left at the end of President Barack Obama's administration. Rob Thomas filled the role on an acting basis from February to September 2017; Scott Blackburn then did the same until resigning on April 17 of this year. Since then, Camilo Sandoval has been the "executive in charge" of the Office of Information and Technology -- despite complaints from congressional Democrats that there are "serious character concerns that should disqualify" him from that role.

Sandoval was involved with Cambridge Analytica while working on Trump's presidential campaign, and he has been accused in a lawsuit of sexually harassing a fellow campaign employee.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, issued a statement applauding the Gfrerer nomination, noting that the CIO "oversees a number of critical projects at the VA, including the massive electronic health records merger, a new system to support the expanded VA caregivers benefits, and other IT priorities." The VA CIO oversees an annual budget of about $4.3 billion.

"Having permanent leadership in place to oversee these projects and the VA’s various information and technology systems will be critical," Isakson said. "I look forward to meeting Mr. Gfrerer and learning more about his background and vision for accomplishing these important tasks."

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is the Editor-in-Chief of both FCW and GCN, two of the oldest and most influential publications in public-sector IT. Both publications (originally known as Federal Computer Week and Government Computer News, respectively) are owned by GovExec. Mr. Schneider also serves GovExec's General Manager for Government Technology Brands.

Mr. Schneider previously served as New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company, where he oversaw the online operations of The Atlantic Monthly, National Journal, The Hotline and The Almanac of American Politics, among other publications. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Mr. Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Mr. Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.

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