John Gingrich, the chief of staff for the Veterans Affairs Department, is retiring and will leave the agency by the end of the month after 37 years of federal and military service.
“Earlier this year, as this administration began its second term, I discussed my transition with the secretary and agreed to ensure a smooth transition and to set the conditions for an interim chief of staff, which will be completed by March 31,” Gingrich wrote in a note to staff.
Gingrich has served as VA chief of staff since January 2009. Prior to his VA appointment, he was the president of Strategic LINX, a consulting firm. From 2000 to 2003, he served in the Army Chief of Staff’s office, as a member of the Senior Executive Service. He retired from the Army as a colonel in 2001 after a 30-year career there.
“Over the last four years, I have had the tremendous honor to serve the nation’s veterans, their families, and survivors as VA’s chief of staff,” Gingrich said. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity that the secretary afforded me. After a long career in the Army, and after four years of balancing my dedication to the department with my other responsibilities, it is time for me to shift my focus.”
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Gingrich’s tenure at VA was not without its bumps.
An October 2012 inspector general’s report into potentially wasteful conference spending at the department singled out a number of officials, including Gingrich, for failing to provide proper oversight. Gingrich failed to “make sufficient inquiries” regarding the cost of a series of conferences even though he signed off on them, according to the IG.
All told, the IG identified $762,000 in questionable spending, including for a video parody of the 1970 film Patton and promotional items.
Gingrich told the IG’s office that he took “full responsibility” for the conferences, according to the report.
“I signed the thing authorizing the conferences. So, I should have made sure the conferences were executed better,” Gingrich told investigators. “Now, I think people should have done more prudent work. But, it’s my signature upon that page. And, I take the full responsibility. And, I should have asked, probably, harder questions than I did.”
In the wake of the earlier conference spending scandal at the General Services Administration, the VA conferences became a political lightning rod.
Last October, the top Republicans on the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees wrote to Shinseki asking him to remove Gingrich from his post.