After nearly two years of acting CIOs, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a nominee for CIO. The White House nominated James Paul Gfrerer to be the assistant secretary for Information and Technology for the VA on Friday.
Gfrerer formerly worked in cybersecurity as an executive director at Ernst & Young (EY). He also has a background in counterterrorism and cybersecurity from his time in the U.S. Marines Corps and was a Department of Defense detailee for the State Department, according to the announcement.
- Scott Blackburn served as the VA's acting CIO since September 2017 but announced his resignation in April, according to his Twitter page. Prior to Blackburn, Rob Thomas served as the VA's acting CIO between January and October 2017. LaVerne Council was the VA's last CIO serving in an official capacity between July 2015 and January 2017.
Since January of 2017, the state of federal CIOs has been shifty, to say the least. Multiple agencies saw their chief IT executive depart, leaving many with the prolonged tenure of an acting CIO.
Just in August of last year, five CIOs left their roles, which adds uncertainty to the direction an agency is going and results in a loss of momentum behind IT initiatives. CIOs tend to have a tenure of about four years, but federal CIOs typically have a tenure that is shorter than the lifespan of an agency's modernization process.
This isn't the first time the Trump administration has poached an EY executive for a federal CIO position. In January the White House named Suzette Kuhlow Kent as the administrator of the Office of Electronic Government, Office of Management and Budget. Kent took over from Margie Graves, who served as the acting federal CIO since January 2017 after Tony Scott vacated the position.
Most federal agencies and their IT leadership are apolitical. However, there tends to be natural changes in leadership as changes in presidencies occur. The VA, however, is different. The VA is the only agency that requires its CIO to undergo Senate confirmation.
It is also one of the agencies to receive the most money from the federal government's $80 billion IT budget. This year the VA received $4.2 billion with $204 million dedicated to the revitalization of legacy systems.