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VA CIO Thomas to retire

Rob Thomas, the Veterans Affairs Department’s chief information officer and the acting assistant secretary for information and technology, is retiring in October.

A VA spokesperson confirmed Thomas’ decision.

Scott Blackburn had been the interim deputy secretary at VA until August, when the Senate confirmed current Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman will take over as acting CIO and acting assistant secretary.

Rob Thomas is retiring after 35 years in government.

Thomas has been CIO since January, taking over for LaVerne Council after she left because of the change in administration.

Thomas leaves federal service after more than 35 years, including the last two-plus at VA. He also worked at FEMA, the Defense Department, the Air Force and took a turn in the private sector.

“Please know that it has been an honor, privilege and pleasure to serve with you at [the Office of Information and Technology]. This has been an enriching experience: serving our nation’s Veterans, and equally important, having the opportunity to work side-by-side with outstanding public servants,” Thomas wrote in an email to staff, which Federal News Radio obtained. “We have made significant progress, and we are continuing to move in the right direction with our ongoing transformation and modernization efforts and by the steadfast leadership of Secretary [David] Shulkin on behalf of our nation’s 23 million veterans. With this in mind, I am proud of what we have accomplished, and continue to accomplish together, and I hope you are as well. From modernizing both our electronic health record and benefits delivery network to our continuing effort to improve enterprise cybersecurity, VA’s scheduling systems and consolidating the financial management system, OI&T is committed to the secretary’s initiatives to deliver better service to our veterans.”

Thomas came to VA in 2015 as the assistant deputy chief information officer for integration. Among the areas he focused on was changing VA’s agile development process to bring a focus on doing instead of documenting.

Thomas told lawmakers in February that VA was fixing its scheduling application. He told the House Veterans Affairs Committee that he was transforming five systems because now the governance and processes are in place.

Many of these initiatives made progress because Thomas also oversaw the enterprise program management office (EPMO), which is the control tower to manage the $4 billion IT portfolio.

Blackburn takes over on an interim basis, having come to VA in 2014 to lead the MyVA Task Force.

In leading the MyVA Task Force, Blackburn focused on improving the veteran customer service experience. One major project was improving employee morale after VA finished second lowest among large agencies in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

Before coming to VA, Blackburn worked at McKinsey and Company for nine years.

Thomas becomes the sixth agency CIO to leave in the last few months. When Blackburn takes over in October, there will be 11 acting CIOs among the 24 CFO act agencies and the three military services.