On Friday, President Trump announced his intention to nominate James Paul Gfrerer, former executive director at Ernst & Young, as assistant secretary for information and technology at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
If confirmed by the Senate, Gfrerer will take the place of former VA CIO Scott Blackburn, who resigned from his position in April. Blackburn, who had been appointed as the department’s acting CIO since October 2017, said at the time of his resignation that his departure a “bittersweet moment” in his career without getting into more details about why he would be leaving. The VA replaced Blackburn with Camilo Sandoval, a former Trump campaign director of data operations.
As CIO, Blackburn was in charge of VA’s Office of Information and Technology, and when he took over the role last year, one of his top projects was replacing VA’s legacy EHR (electronic health record) system, called VistA, by adopting the same platform as the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), a Cerner EHR system. That contract was finally signed in May.
Now, it will be Gfrerer’s turn, assuming he is confirmed. Prior to joining Ernst & Young, he served in the United States Marine Corps for more than two decades and was a Department of Defense Detailee to the Department of State leading interagency portfolios in counterterrorism and cybersecurity, according to the White House statement.
Gfrerer’s nomination comes just a few days after the Senate confirmed Robert Wilkie, a nominee of Trump, as VA Secretary. For about four months, Wilkie had been the acting VA secretary following Trump’s dismissal of former Secretary David Shulkin, M.D. in late March. Wilkie, who is also the Department of Defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness, was Trump’s second nominee for the VA position.
Following the dismissal of Shulkin, the resignation of Blackburn, and others, the Trump administration has been looking to fill the gaps held in top VA executive positions. Indeed, acting officials have been holding nearly all of VA’s top leadership positions, including the secretary, undersecretaries for the Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration, and the CIO. Many of those positions have been open for hundreds of days.
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