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FCW : May 30, 2013
18 May 30, 2013 FCW.COM extensive turnover in recent months. Former CIO Baker, Chief Tech- nology Of cer Peter Levin and Jerry Davis, deputy assistant secretary for information security, all vacated their positions in early 2013. Jeanie Larson, OIT s director of risk management and incident response, resigned effective March 15. Jeff Shyshka, deputy CIO for service delivery and engineering, retired recently after 35 years with the department. Eric Raf n, executive director of eld operations at OIT, left the department after about two years of service, and several other high- level OIT positions have been similarly vacated. Still other top OIT of cials are planning their exit strategies, according to one VA source. Chief of Staff John Gingrich left the agency in March after decades in pub- lic service. His exit came months after lawmakers called for his removal in the wake of an IG report noting VA s over-the-top conference spending. And at press time, Deputy Secretary Scott Gould had announced plans to leave the agency in late May. An October 2012 OIG report stressed that OIT needs to improve its work- force management. One of the prob- lems, the investigators found, was that OIT has not created a succession plan to provide continuity of leadership or conducted leadership and workforce competency gap analyses to identify skill gaps and strategies to improve employees skill sets. With regard to the turnover at OIT, Baker told FCW that it s nearly impos- sible to please every individual in an 8,000-person organization that is under- going widespread change. "When you re driving change, some people are going to decide they don t want to be a part of that change," Baker said. "It s unfortunate, but not everybody is going to want to be part of the new organization. There has been a lot of driving change over the past four years at VA, and it isn t a matter of good people or bad people. You set a certain organizational approach and place you want to get to, and people may decide that isn t something they want to be a part of. That s not all bad." What is troubling to outsiders, though, is the criticism leveled at War- ren by outgoing OIT employees who cite a hostile work environment and poor leadership. "OIT is not a pleasant place to work. There s a lack of leadership, and it seems to zero in on Steph [Warren], and why that is, I can t explain," a for- mer VA of cial said. "All the people I ve talked to who ve left essentially said the same thing or showed the same behavior by parting, and there s an indictment of style when a bunch of [senior executives] quit because they re not putting up with this crap. These are people who got where they are by putting up with a lot of crap." Warren was also named in an equal employment opportunity complaint led earlier this year by Davis, now CIO at NASA s Ames Research Center. At the time, Warren was principal deputy assistant secretary for information and technology. The complaint is the focus of two separate VA OIG investigations, according to a VA insider. One investigation concerns War- ren s directions to Davis to sign off on authority-to-operate (ATO) checklists for 545 systems in the VA inventory in January that the source said compro- mised the integrity of VA s certi cation and accreditation process. The second investigation is looking into allegations that Warren attempted to coerce Davis into falsely certifying ATOs as a condition of being released from VA to work at NASA, according to the source. FCW obtained several email exchanges between Davis and other VA employees in which Davis out- lined his professional concerns and unwillingness to engage "in a low- value, static and sunsetting ATO pro- cess in any way, shape or form that is diametrically contrary to the way the U.S. government requires departments and agencies to manage system risks." The VA insider said VA s Of ce of General Counsel "quickly intervened and overrode Warren s refusal to release Davis" when it got wind of the situation, though Davis start date at Ames was delayed two weeks. Davis declined FCW s request to talk about the EEO complaint or his last months at VA. Ultimately, the source said Davis signed off on some of the ATOs but with "conditions of serious reservation." Warren also declined FCW s requests for an interview. "THE PERSONALITY OF THE PEOPLE AT THE TOP IS JUST TOXIC.... RIGHT NOW, IT'S CIRCULAR FIRING SQUAD STUFF." What's wrong at VA?
May 15, 2013
June 15, 2013