John Gingrich, who has served as chief of staff of the Veterans Affairs Department since January 2009 abruptly announced his resignation on Monday, and I’m picking up strong signals that VA plans to tap Jose Riojas, assistant secretary for operations, security and preparedness, as his successor.
Gingrich, an Army Gulf War veteran, said in an internal e-mail to the VA staff sent my way: “After over 37 years of combined military and federal service, my wife and I decided it was time to retire.” He plans to leave March 31, after an interim chief of staff is appointed.
Gingich’s role in the approval of lavish and expensive VA conferences in Florida could have played a role in his resignation, sources told me. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., criticized Gingrich’s “lack of judgement” in approving those conferences, NBC reported yesterday.
Riojas, according to vets I have talked to -- including those working at VA -- is well-respected and has the backing of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki for the chief of staff job. A retired brigadier general and West Point graduate, Riojas spent 30 years in the Army. He also was vice president for strategic initiatives at the University of Texas at El Paso before joining VA in May 2009.