Senate Confirms OSTP Director, VA CIO on Final Day

Kelvin Droegemeier now leads the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Kelvin Droegemeier now leads the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Sue Ogrocki/AP File Photo

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Nobody has permanently served in either role since the beginning of the Trump administration.

The Senate unanimously approved appointees to two of the Trump administration’s top tech positions on the final full day of the 115th Congress.

Lawmakers on Wednesday confirmed Kelvin Droegemeier to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has operated without a chief for nearly two years. They also voted to instate ex-Marine James Gfrerer as chief information officer at the Veterans Affairs Department.

As OSTP director, Droegemeier would be president’s top advisor on artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other emerging technology issues. A meteorologist by training, he told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing he plans to focus on expanding partnerships with industry and academia, investing in “commercially risky but transformative” research and reskilling the workforce for the 21st century.

Droegemeier also voiced his intentions to expand international research collaboration while ensuring the U.S. remains on the forefront of technological development. As global competitors like China make moves to dominate in AI and other emerging markets, he also noted it will be particularly important to find common ground on technology ethics.

With the top post at OSTP vacant, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios has served as the de facto head of White House tech initiatives, where he’s pushed heavily to deregulate the tech sector.

As Veterans Affairs’ top tech official, Gfrerer will be responsible for overseeing numerous beleaguered IT modernization efforts, including a multibillion-dollar attempt to overhaul the agency’s electronic health record platform and a delayed upgrade to its G.I. Bill benefits processing system, which left tens of thousands of vets waiting months to receive housing benefits.

Gfrerer becomes the agency’s first permanent chief information officer under the Trump administration—three others have served in an acting capacity. He previously worked as executive director of Ernst & Young’s risk and cybersecurity division and will take the reins from controversial former Trump advisor Camilo Sandoval.