Senate panel approves Trump nominee to serve as VA CIO

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James Gfrerer, the Trump administration’s pick to serve as chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, is a step closer to overseeing the VA’s IT infrastructure.

The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Tuesday approved Gfrerer’s nomination, which now moves to the full Senate for a vote on his confirmation.

If confirmed, Gfrerer would oversee the implementation of a $15.8 billion VA electronic health record modernization program, which is slated to replace the decades-old Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture.

“It’s going to take a concerted effort to maintain VistA—for example—for nine to 10 years,” Gfrerer testified on September 5 before a Senate hearing to consider his nomination, referencing the fact that the maintenance of the VA legacy EHR will continue until a new commercial-off-the-shelf Cerner system is fully deployed.

Also See: VA CIO nominee says Cerner EHR could be rolled out sooner than 10 years

On Monday, the VA issued an amendment to its request for information in order to provide an update to industry on its plans to procure maintenance and support services for VistA. The agency now anticipates issuing a request for proposal on General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule 70 around September 21.

“There are approximately 143 VistA facilities including numerous VA medical centers, VA Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) data centers, and Regional Data Processing Centers operating hundreds of Alpha/VMS-based systems in support of VistA platforms throughout the United States, as well as San Juan, PR and Manila,” states the agency’s scope of work. “Due to the mission critical nature of the VistA and VistA Imaging systems, VA’s objective is to ensure these systems are operational and accessible without interruption.”

Among the VA’s VistA requirements are that the contractor maintain a fully updated, operational and tested system—referred to as “Recoverall” —which is to be available at all times, ready to ship immediately upon request by the agency.

“This Recoverall system shall have the ability to operate VistA or VistA Imaging operations at any VA medical center or facility, excluding the Regional Data Processing Center (RDPC) installations,” according to the agency, which noted that “from 2008 to 2018, Recoverall has been invoked four times” and that “as the equipment in the field ages, we expect this to grow at least one event per year.”

Based on his military experience, Gfrerer told a Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month that he has an understanding of the “intricacies of IT legacy systems and large-scale IT projects” to successfully execute the VA’s transition from VistA to the Cerner EHR.

Previously, Gfrerer worked as an executive director with Ernst & Young in the firm’s cybersecurity practice. Before joining the consultancy, he served for more than two decades in the Marine Corps and was a Department of Defense detailee to the State Department, where he led interagency portfolios in counterterrorism and cybersecurity.

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