GSA veteran to give VA’s customer service office a much-needed boost

The Veterans Affairs Department’s customer experience office is getting some much needed and welcome help.

Darren Blue, the General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service director of the National Capital Region, is joining VA as its deputy chief customer experience officer.

Blue will work with Tom Allin, who leads VA’s effort to radically change how the agency serves veterans.

Allin’s decision to bring on Blue makes total sense. Who better to help with customer service than someone who managed a quarter of all federal real estate and brought in half of all PBS’ revenue?

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Add to that the fact that Blue is a veteran, having served in the Army for nine years, including an overseas tour during combat operations in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, and it seems like VA has found a good match.

Allin told me Oct. 8 at the ACT-IAC Customer Service Summit in Washington that he was excited for Blue to join VA and very much welcomed the additional help.

Blue joined GSA in 2008 serving in multiple roles, including as assistant commissioner for facilities management, where he provided strategic direction and innovations for building operations and small construction projects. He also led the agency’s emergency response and recovery office, where he led GSA’s effort to respond to disasters.

Along with Blue there were several other notable personnel changes in the federal community.

David Rude , the Defense Department’s chief learning officer, is moving to a new role.

In an email obtained by Federal News Radio, Rude said he will become the CLO of the National Nuclear Security Administration in November. Rude’s last day at DoD is at the end of October.

CLOs are seeing their profiles rise across the government as the human resources function begins to separate from the training roles.

For example, the Homeland Security Department recently said it would hire a new chief learning and engagement officer position to lead the effort to improve employee morale and overall satisfaction.

A Federal News Radio survey from May found CLOs’ recent rise is due to two main reasons, budget tightening and workforce turnover.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has a new chief information officer.

Larry Gross moves to the FDIC from the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency. Gross replaces Barry West, who went on administrative leave back in June under unknown circumstances. West resigned from the FDIC in August and now is leading a private sector firm.

Gross comes to the FDIC after only being with the Farm Service Agency CIO since April. He joins the financial oversight agency after previously working also as the principle deputy CIO at Interior Department for almost five years. He also worked as the associate CIO for Electronic Government at the Treasury Department.

Another law firm is trying to get in on the big business that is cybersecurity.

Venable joins a growing trend of traditional law and lobbying firms making big hires under a cybersecurity services banner.

In this case, Ari Schwartz, the former senior director for cybersecurity at the White House, joined the Venable as its managing director of cybersecurity services in October. Venable said in a release that Schwartz will work with the firm’s attorneys to provide companies with a holistic approach to addressing cybersecurity issues. In his role as the managing director of cybersecurity services, Schwartz will provide cybersecurity consulting services for the firm, assisting organizations with understanding and development of risk management strategies.

The Federal Times first reported Schwartz’s departure from government.

A February 2015 paper from Hanover Research, which was prepared for the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, found there is a growing demand for lawyers to work on cyber and privacy issues. The researchers said large and medium sized law firms created cybersecurity practice groups over the last few years, but they are, in some cases, finding it difficult to hire qualified attorneys.

“Although the market for cyberlaw services remains in a nascent stage, experts expect that in the long term, the field will continue to grow,” researchers said.

So Schwartz’s move is another example of the private sector “poaching” from the government. Over the years, we’ve seen this with technology management experts, contracting officers and specific research and development areas, but only in the recent memory has cybersecurity expertise been a commodity worth “stealing” from the government.

Schwartz has been with the White House since June 2013, serving in a privacy and civil liberties oversight role and then moving into a special adviser and senior director role. Before coming to the White House, Schwartz worked at the National Institute for Standards and Technology.

He also worked for the Center for Democracy and Technology and for the Center for Effective Government before joining the government.

Finally, Gwynne Kostin is taking on a new role for a year as an IPA fellow in the Partnership for Public Service’s Ready to Govern initiative.

She will help lead the presidential transition effort from a policy perspective. She told me in her new role she will work with agencies to help prepare their policy and programmatic priorities and goals for the next administration. She said it’s less operational and more focused on what new leaders need to know when they arrive at their respective agency.

Kostin has been GSA’s director of its digital government and digital services innovation center since May 2012.

NextGov first reported Kostin’s new role.