Howard on deck to be VA CIO

President Bush today said he intends to nominate Robert Howard to be assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs for Information and Technology and CIO.

Howard has been senior adviser to VA deputy secretary Gordon Mansfield since May 2005. But he has performed many CIO duties since VA secretary Jim Nicholson named him supervisor of the Office of Information and Technology since former CIO Robert McFarland left at the end of April. Howard's nomination will require Senate approval.

Howard has been the face of VA's IT organization in congressional hearings and handling data security issues after the theft of a laptop containing the personal information of millions of veterans from the home of an employee in May. In the most recent VA theft, this time at the offices of subcontractor Unisys Corp. in Reston, Va., Howard was part of the VA team dispatched to assist in searching the building for the missing desktop computer and to help determine the precise nature of the information it may have contained.

Shortly before the May data theft, McFarland resigned in the wake of what he called 'a contentious atmosphere at the executive level' over pressure to centralize the VA IT organization. He said he left because 'my continued presence in it would be detrimental to the department's implementation of it [centralization].'

VA has begun to centralize management and operational IT and the associated IT personnel under Howard, but IT project development and software developers remain under the authority of VA's health, benefits and burial administrations.

Prior to joining VA, Howard served in several senior leadership positions in the private sector and as deputy assistant secretary of the Army. A Vietnam War veteran, Howard served 33 years on active duty and achieved the rank of major general of the Army.

Howard received his bachelor's degree from Northeastern University in Boston and his master's degree from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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