Nominee for VA CIO passes first hurdle in Senate

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The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee approved the nomination Tuesday of LaVerne H. Council to become the next chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The nomination now moves to the full Senate for final confirmation.

“The VA’s information technology program has often experienced project failures, cost overruns and security mismanagement,” said committee chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in a statement. “If confirmed, I look forward to working with … Ms. Council to address these issues and ensure that the VA is well-equipped to deliver the best possible care and services to our veterans.”

If confirmed by the full Senate, Council will assume the role of assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs for information and technology. She will replace Steph Warren as CIO and take control of the VA’s $4.2 billion IT budget.

Sources close to Warren said upon Council’s confirmation he will revert to his previous position as the principal deputy assistant secretary for information and technology. He’s expected to stay on at VA at least until he is eligible for retirement in April 2016, sources said.

Council’s nomination and likely confirmation comes at a critical time for VA. The department remains under constant attack from cyber criminals, has suffered from a high rate of personnel turnover, is in the middle of a major acquisition of a new commercial scheduling system and is trying to coordinate health record information sharing with a Defense Department that is bent on pursuing a separate $11 billion initiative.

But Council brings significant private sector experience to the VA, like Secretary Bob McDonald, who came to VA from the CEO position at Proctor & Gamble. Council is the former CIO for Johnson & Johnson.

Before joining Johnson & Johnson, Council served as the global vice president for information technology at Dell.

During her first appearance before the committee in May, Council pledged to develop a technology roadmap to improve data interoperability with the Defense Department. Ranking member Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., requested that Council produce a detailed plan and timetable for improving data interoperability with the Defense Department as part of her final confirmation process.

Council said one of the reasons she was chosen for the position was her reputation for doing what she says she is going to do. “I will assure you that you will have a roadmap that will lay out with a scorecard that information about how it should be done,” she said. “This is surmountable,” she said, referring to the data standardization shortfalls between VA and DOD. “And I will make it my duty to make it right.”

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Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Departments, LaVerne Council, Stephen Warren
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