Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie fired his deputy James Byrne on Monday out of a reported “loss of confidence.”
“Today, I dismissed VA Deputy Secretary James Byrne due to loss of confidence in Mr. Byrne’s ability to carry out his duties. This decision is effective immediately,” Wilke said in a statement.
Byrne, a former Marine infantry officer, was Senate-confirmed to the deputy secretary role in September. Prior to that, he served in an acting capacity since August 2018. He originally joined the VA as general counsel in 2017.
James Byrne was the accountable official on the VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization plan and worked hand-in-hand with the department’s CIO on other digital transformation efforts. The VA has been trying to move its vast amount of veteran health records to a modernized system managed by Cerner. In November Byrne said he was “very confident” the program will successfully launch in March, despite encountering several roadblocks, according to reports from congressional watchdogs.
He said then it would be either he or Wilkie making the final decision on if the system will be ready to go live by March 28. “And we’re both accountable for it, regardless of who makes it.” With Byrne now gone, its unclear how that decision will be made.
Before joining the VA, Byrne worked for Lockheed Martin Corp. as chief privacy officer and a cyber and counterintelligence attorney.