VA adds, NIST loses senior executive

Thursday - 2/13/2014, 9:24am EST

The Veterans Affairs Department gets a new senior executive. The Commerce Department loses one.

And so goes the political-appointee carousel.

The Senate confirmed Sloan Gibson to be the VA deputy secretary Tuesday.

Gibson replaces Scott Gould, who left VA in May to take a job with the private sector.

Meanwhile, Patrick Gallagher, the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and currently performing the duties of the deputy secretary of Commerce, announced he's leaving to become the chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh starting in August.

"I am really excited by this opportunity. In addition to being a major research university with a growing reputation, Pitt is also my alma mater and my family has deep ties to the region," Gallagher said in an email to staff obtained by Federal News Radio. "This was not an easy decision for me, but this position was one of those rare, unique opportunities that doesn't come around very often — and certainly not when you expect it!"

Gallagher with NIST nearly 20 years

Gallagher has been at Commerce for more than 20 years and has led NIST since November 2009. He first joined the agency in 1993 as a research physicist and instrument scientist at the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR), a national user facility for neutron scattering. In 2000, he became group leader for facility operations, and in 2004 he was appointed NCNR Director. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded Gallagher a Gold Medal, its highest honor, for his leadership in interagency coordination efforts.

"Pat embodies the best in public service: passionate, committed, innovative and results-oriented," said Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker in a statement. "While we at the Department will miss Pat very much, I am excited he has received his dream opportunity to lead his alma mater as the new Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh. The university is indeed lucky to attract a person who has an ability to bring people together and form coalitions to get things done. Simply put, Pat has been an incredible partner and friend to so many in the federal government, me included, as well as an outstanding leader for the Department of Commerce. All of us wish him the best in his new position."

During his tenure, Gallagher has seen the rise of NIST as a major player in federal and private sector cybersecurity. He also has overseen NIST's efforts to bring standardization and clarity to technologies such as cloud computing, electrical smart grid, mobile computing, including use of smart identity cards and a host of others.

Most recently, Gallagher led NIST's efforts to develop, in a collaborative fashion with industry and other experts, the cyber framework for critical- infrastructure providers.

Gibson most recently head of the USO

Gibson comes to VA after spending the last five-plus years as the president and CEO of the nonprofit USO.

During his confirmation hearing in November, he told Senate Veterans Affairs Committee members his priorities would include the ongoing effort to reduce and eliminate the longstanding backlog of disability claims. He said he also will work to find common ground with the Defense Department on a new strategy for a joint electronic-health records system.

Gibson also spent 20 years in the banking industry, retiring from AmSouth Bancorporation in 2004.

He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and earned both Airborne and Ranger qualifications, and served in the infantry in the Army.

Gibson earned a Masters in Economics from the University of Missouri in Kansas City and a Masters in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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