Senators praised Kurt DelBene, the nominee for chief information officer (CIO) and assistant secretary for information and technology at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), during a quick Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on Dec. 8, and called for swift confirmation by the full Senate.

If confirmed, DelBene would oversee all of VA’s IT matters and be tasked with delivering adaptable, secure, and cost-effective technology services to VA employees and veterans.

“I look forward to getting you confirmed so you can get on the job and start doing what I think can be some really, really, really good work for our veterans in this nation,” committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., said during the hearing.

DelBene, if confirmed, would come to the VA CIO position with both extensive private sector and Federal government healthcare agency experience.

He retired from Microsoft in September as the company’s executive vice president, core services engineering and operations, and was previously president of the Microsoft Office Division.

DelBene also worked in the Obama administration on improvements to the Healthcare.gov enrollment website, with the title of senior advisor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called for a quick confirmation of DelBene, saying it’s time VA moves “into the 21st century. Mr. DelBene is uniquely qualified to lead this effort.”

“Here on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Republicans and Democrats have always been able to find common ground in order to make sure this government is living up to its promise to our veterans because, at the end of the day, I believe everyone on this committee is firmly committed to getting the job done for the women and men who served our country. So let’s confirm someone who can get the job done,” Sen. Murray said.

“I urge this committee to waste no time in advancing this nomination so Mr. DelBene can be confirmed on the Senate floor and get to work for our veterans as soon as possible,” she added.

Notably, DelBene’s office does not oversee VA’s Electronic Health Records Modernization (EHRM) program, which has come under fire in recent months from Congress over a troubled roll-out and inaccurate cost estimates.

VA announced a new reorganization of the program last week, and two new positions to help the program move forward. However, Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, questioned why DelBene would not be in charge of overseeing the EHRM program if he’s “the IT guy.”

DelBene said he believes the recent reorganization of the EHRM program aims to have leaders who are “really focused” on the program and can “feel that sense of responsibility.” However, he noted that he would love to bring his experiences to help out with the program as well.

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“I believe that there’s an opportunity for me to take the experience that I’ve had in the private sector and in working on the Affordable Care Act’s website to help and I think you can count on me jumping in, getting involved with those teams to really see every place that I can provide my background, my understanding, and help there,” DelBene said. “I think that’s distinguished from the whole notion of who would be the particular leader.”

“I think the thing that I would commit to is it’s important to me to solve that problem to make the EHR implementation a success. And I just need to get involved and figure out where I can help the most,” he added.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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