DorobekInsider: Changes within the VA IT shop

Tuesday - 10/6/2009, 1:30pm EDT

EDITOR’S NOTE: This item was updated with a correction on Oct. 7, 2009 at 9:25a ET.

We told you about those scandalous IG reports on the Department of Veterans Affairs CIO organization that showed former high-ranking VA IT officials “gave preferential treatment to certain contractors, engaged in nepotism in hiring and, in one case, took advantage of a relationship with a supervisor for personal gain.”

There has been a lot of buzz around the Beltway — and within the halls of VA. As I mentioned earlier, one of the hottest tickets in town is Thursday’s Input executive breakfast with VA CIO Roger Baker — who, it is important to note, was not at VA when all of the events alleged by the IG were supposed to have happened. I said earlier that I didn’t think that Baker will address the issue of the IG report, but… he may at least acknowledge that there have been some personnel shifts.

Jaren Doherty has been named the acting deputy assistant secretary for cyber-security, VA officials confirmed — and they noted that he is serving in an acting capacity. The emphasis comes from them. He is filling in for Adair Martinez, who is one of the players at the heart of the VA IG report drama. VA insiders say that Martinez was just recently put on administrative leave. VA officials will not discuss any of those particulars.

CORRECTION: VA officials have told me that the report about Nash is not accurate. “Laura Nash has no change to her present position, which is executive assistant in IPRM.” Your report yesterday that she was named acting associate director is not correct.” I stand corrected.

VA has also named Laura Nash to be the acting ADAS for cyber-security, filling in for Doherty. Nash’s name does appear in the IG reports.

We are also hearing that Bob Howard, the former VA CIO, who is also at the heart of the VA IG reports, has left Femme Comp Inc. (FCI), where he had landed as a as a senior vice president working on command and control and information technologies for the Defense Department. A few weeks ago, Howard sent an e-mail to a handful of people, which has been making the rounds, that merely gave a new e-mail contact. I have reached out to him, but I have not heard back.

Meanwhile, people tell me that VA is still conducting an investigation. One person who has dealt with similar kinds of issues told me that the IG report is something akin for a grand jury indictment — and it is VA management’s job to determine if there is enough evidence for administration action as recommended by the IG. VA management — the VA CIO, the general counsel, HR — have to ensure that they are fair and objective within the law.

And one person who has dealt with these kinds of issues said this process doesn’t necessarily move quickly.

Baker is in a complex situation. First off, he wasn’t at VA when all of this happened, yet it is his mess to clean up. But beyond that, he is likely to be criticized no matter what he does.

It will be interesting to see what Baker has to say on Thursday. My prediction is that he still won’t say all that much, but many people will be there — we hear that Input’s numbers are nearing 600 people.