After 10 Months, VA Has a Deputy Secretary Nominee

James Byrne, the VA's general counsel, has been working in the deputy secretary position since August 2018. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
James Byrne, the VA's general counsel, has been working in the deputy secretary position since August 2018. (Department of Veterans Affairs)

The acting deputy secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs has been nominated to fill the position permanently, ending a 10-month stretch without a permanent official in the position.

James Byrne, the VA's general counsel who has been working in the deputy secretary position since last August, was nominated by President Donald Trump on Friday.

Byrne is a distinguished graduate of Naval Academy and former Marine infantry officer. He earned his juris doctor from Stetson University College of Law in 1995 and worked at the Justice Department as a narcotics prosecutor before holding positions as counsel in the United States Office of Special Counsel and investigator with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

He was hired at VA as general counsel in 2017 after spending some time in the private sector, working as general counsel and lead cyber and counterintelligence attorney at Lockheed Martin Corp.

If confirmed, Byrne would head a position that has been vacant since last June, when then-Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman resigned.

A number of key jobs remain unfilled by permanent appointees at VA, including the important role of under secretary for health -- the top position at the Veterans Health Administration.

Dr. Richard Stone currently serves as executive in charge at VHA, but VA has not had a Senate-confirmed health under secretary since Dr. David Shulkin left the post in February 2017 when he was nominated for VA Secretary.

On Saturday, Sen. Johnny Isakson, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said he is looking forward to Byrne's confirmation hearing. After the White House announced Byrne's nomination, Isakson, R-Georgia, said he looked forward to heading the confirmation hearing.

"I am glad to see Mr. Byrne nominated to serve in this critical role," Isakson said. "The deputy secretary of the VA is responsible for working closely with the secretary to make sure the federal government's second largest cabinet department is operating effectively, efficiently and in the best interest of our veterans."

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @patriciakime.

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