Another top executive leaves VA, where leadership vacancies are already widespread

The Veterans Affairs Department is losing yet another top executive.

Peter Shelby, VA’s chief human capital officer, has left the agency after a little more than a year in his job as assistant secretary for human resources.

In a statement to Federal News Radio, acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke said Shelby voluntarily left the agency “to pursue opportunities in the private sector.”

“His leadership has been instrumental during one of the most productive periods for VA reform in recent history,” O’Rourke said, citing Shelby’s development of VA direct hiring initiatives to fill critical vacancies and his work implementing the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.

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“We thank Peter for his service to veterans, the department and our nation, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors,” O’Rourke added.

Shelby did not immediately respond to a request on LinkedIn for comment.

During his tenure, he focused on reorganizing and consolidating VA’s 170 human resources offices, part of a larger initiative to shrink its HR function of 7,000 employees in half over the next several years. He closed VA’s HR function at the department’s central office in an effort to move the agency’s customer-serving organizations closer to the people they serve.

Shelby was also behind VA’s new performance management guidance, which the agency issued after receiving new authorities in the accountability act. That guidance has earned mixed reviews from both employees and Senate Democrats. The House Veterans Affairs Committee is expected to hear from VA and the American Federation of Government Employees at a hearing next week on the agency’s implementation of the accountability act.

Just two weeks ago, Shelby described VA’s plans to implement a new leadership development program and alter the governmentwide Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) in favor of another employee feedback method tailored specifically to the agency. He also told the House Veterans Affairs Committee about VA’s plans to upgrade its HR IT systems and address specialty care vacancies.

Shelby’s name, title and executive bio have been removed from VA’s website. His spot on the department’s organizational chart has been replaced with an image of the VA shield.

Shelby has had a long career in both private and public sector HR. He served in the Marine Corps for 24 years and led the service’s recruiting and training programs.

The agency’s logo replaces the name, title and photo for other top executives who have left in recent months, including Tom Bowman, who retired recently as VA deputy secretary. No assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and construction is listed.

Meanwhile, acting officials have been leading much of the agency on an interim basis. VA has at least seven acting top leaders to date, including the department’s secretary, deputy and chief of staff.

Robert Wilkie, the president’s nominee to be VA secretary, is in the middle of the Senate confirmation process. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee reported his nomination favorably earlier this week.

But the Veterans Health Administration still lacks a permanent undersecretary for health. At least three commissions formed over the past year to choose candidates for this position to submit to the White House, but no name has surfaced.

The department still lacks a permanent chief information officer after the departure of Scott Blackburn, who had served on an interim basis before resigning in April.

Former Trump campaign officer Camilo Sandoval took Blackburn’s place as CIO. Democrats have publicly questioned his ethics and qualifications.