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FCW : May 15, 2016
22 May 15, 2016 FCW.COM BY ADAM MAZMANIAN AND AISHA CHOWDHRY When Robert McDonald was named secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, all eyes were on his choice for a top technology leader. The assistant secretary for information and technology at VA leads a $4 billion enterprise, one of the largest in civilian government. The post is one of only a handful of agency CIOs jobs that are subject to Senate confirmation. And it was well known that when McDonald was CEO of consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble, he relied heavily on his CIO Filippo Passerini. About a year ago, after her Senate confirmation hearing to become VA’s CIO, LaVerne Council said she suspected Passerini had suggested her for the job. “He knows I like hairy problems,” Council told FCW at the time. It’s hard to imagine a hairier problem in government than running the IT shop at VA. Council is responsible for delivering technology to a workforce of about 345,000 employees. The Office of Information and Technology manages some 450,000 computers and 16,000 servers and is responsible for defending a nationwide network that spans major hospital centers and local clinics and offices. VA also manages medical care for 9.2 million veterans, making it the largest integrated system in the United States. VA tracks patient data on its homegrown, open-source electronic health record system VistA, a program that has struggled to connect and share data with Defense Department systems and those in the private sector. Council stepped into a department that had been under the management of acting CIO Steph Warren for two-and-a-half years. She moved quickly to fill key leadership roles and address some of the most pressing issues, including tackling dozens of long-standing security weaknesses identified by the agency’s inspector general and meeting the requirements of the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that the VistA system be certified as interoperable with DOD systems. That hasn’t left time for much else, but Council said she plans to go the distance. “When the president leaves, that will be my last day as well,” Council said in an April 6 interview. “That was my commitment. I will keep it.” This is a transcript of that conversation; it has been edited for length and clarity. The VA CIO sat down with FCW to discuss her agency’s reform efforts, new initiatives and relationship with Congress DRILLS IN LAVERNE COUNCIL ON HER TO-DO LIST ROBERTSEVERI 0515fcw_022-026.indd 22 4/21/16 9:07 AM
April 30, 2016
May 30, 2016