Trump picks Gfrerer to head VA IT

A career Marine Corps officer and cybersecurity specialist, James Gfrerer most recently worked for Ernst & Young.

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."

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