VA gains, Commerce loses deputy CIO

The Veterans Affairs and Commerce departments are experiencing major changes in the executive ranks of their chief information officer’s office.

VA hired Ron Thompson as the new principal deputy assistant secretary (PDAS) in the Office of Information and Technology, otherwise known as the principal deputy CIO.

VA assistance secretary and CIO LaVerne Council announced Thompson’s hiring in a staff email obtained by Federal News Radio.

At the same time, Commerce is losing its deputy CIO as Izella Dornell announced she is retiring from government on Jan. 3 after more than 30 years.

Dornell said in an email obtained by Federal News Radio that she “decided to explore a new venture” in 2016.

She has been deputy CIO at Commerce since 2009 and began her career with NASA in Houston where she worked with the Space Shuttle Program.

It’s unclear who will replace Dornell. Kirit Amin is the other deputy CIO and chief technology officer.

As deputy CIO, Dornell wrote in a 2013 blog post that she led the oversight and program management effort for all major IT investments, including facilitating the current shared service initiatives for Commerce’s headquarter’s building in Washington and all resident bureaus. These include email cloud migration, Web hosting, IT security, a tier one service/help desk call center and video teleconferencing capability.

“I will treasure the connections we have had during my professional and personal journey and I wish you the best in all that lies ahead for you,” Dornell wrote in the email to friends and staff. “I am simply going to say thanks and I hope to see you later.”

Over at VA, Thompson will replace Steph Warren, who left in August to be the CIO for the Comptroller of the Currency.

Thompson will start at VA on Jan. 10 and comes to the agency from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where he has served as the executive director of IT and Infrastructure Operations in the CIO’s office for the last 21 months.

Thompson previously worked for the Treasury Department in assorted roles, including at the IRS as a director and senior technical adviser, and as director of the Financial Management Service. He also worked for the Census Bureau, Hewlett Packard and served in the Army.

“As the senior career executive in OI&T, the PDAS provides the day-to-day operational leadership our team needs to accomplish our IT strategic initiatives,” Council wrote. “Ron’s breadth of hands-on experience in organizational design and transformation will bring new perspectives in partnership and creative problem solving, and his years of service in the United States Army will help him ensure that the Veteran remains the focal point of everything we do.”

Thompson becomes the latest hire by Council to help replenish her staff, which saw a high amount of turnover since she took over in July. Along with Warren, at least two other senior executives have left VA.

Council is bringing in new executives to help her push through an ambitious agenda, including a new cyber strategy and a more agile software development and implementation process.

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