Biden administration picks former Microsoft exec for VA CIO

Kurt DelBene, a former senior executive at Microsoft and Defense Innovation Board member, is being tapped by the Biden administration to serve as CIO of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Kurt DelBene, a former senior executive at Microsoft and an instrumental figure in the effort to repair the website during the Obama administration, is being tapped to serve as CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VA is one of the few agencies with a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed CIO. The full title of the post is assistant secretary for information and technology and CIO. The technology unit at VA has its own appropriations line and manages the technology portfolio, cybersecurity and more for the major divisions at VA, including Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration.

The job is frequently filled with career officials in an acting role. Since 2009, there have been just three Senate-confirmed occupants of the VA CIO post. The job is currently being filled by Neil Evans, a VA physician who heads the Office of Connected Care in the Veterans Health Administration.

VA is seeking a $4.8 billion appropriation for the Office of Information and Technology for fiscal year 2022. OI&T is also playing in increasingly important role in the ongoing $21 billion-plus Electronic Health Care Record Modernization (EHRM) program.

A longtime Microsoft executive, DelBene took leave from the company in late 2013 to replace Jeffrey Zients as the lead of the team working to stabilize and improve the website, the front door for citizens to obtain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The website famously failed at launch and required an intensive effort to scale the site and improve its performance.

DelBene's career at Microsoft included stints as executive vice president of corporate strategy, core services engineering and operations as well as president of Microsoft's Office division. He retired from the company in September 2021. He has also served as a member of the Defense Innovation Board.

DelBene is married to Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) who was first elected in 2012 and serves on the House Ways and Means Committee. Her district includes Microsoft's Redmond headquarters.

This article first appeared on FCW. Photo credit: Kurt DelBene speaks at a March 2020 meeting of the Defense Innovation Board in Austin, Texas; DOD photo by EJ Hersom.