Veterans Affairs

Gfrerer confirmed to lead tech at VA

Department of Veterans Affairs (Photo: bakdc / Shutterstock) 

The Senate confirmed James Gfrerer to serve as assistant secretary of information and technology and CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs by a voice vote on the last day of the 115th Congress.

Gfrerer, who served in the Marine Corps for more than two decades, comes to government from the cybersecurity practice of Ernst and Young. He also has government cybersecurity experience, having been detailed from the Department of Defense to the Department of State to work on interagency efforts in cyber and counter terrorism.

The VA is one of the few agencies with a Senate-confirmed CIO. Early on in the Trump administration, the role was filled by longtime VA tech executive Rob Thomas and then by Scott Blackburn, who also briefly served as deputy secretary. Since April 2018, former Trump campaign operative Camilo Sandoval led the VA's Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) on an acting basis. Sandoval was dogged by accusations of misconduct during the campaign, and Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), the former ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, sought to have him removed.

Gfrerer inherits an office with urgent challenges. The VA is looking to adopt a new electronic health record system to replace its homegrown Vista platform, and the $16 billion budget for the 10-year effort is already adrift, to the consternation of some overseers on Capitol Hill. The health record effort is led by a new office outside OI&T, but efforts to modernize infrastructure at VA are needed to support the new system.

Additionally, the VA is looking to rebid a troubled IT project that supports benefits payments under the Forever GI Bill, after miscalculations and glitches led to incorrect or missing housing allowance payments to veterans attending college or vocational training.

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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