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VA Taps CTO Charles Worthington With Dual AI Chief Role

The leader has been serving at the agency since 2017 and takes on a dual CTO and CAIO role as agencies prioritize responsible AI development.

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VA CTO Charles Worthington
Department of Veterans Affairs CTO Charles Worthington speaks at GovCIO Media & Research's Veterans Digital Transformation Breakfast at the Newseum in Washington, DC., Nov. 7, 2019. Photo Credit: Rod Lamkey Jr.

Department of Veterans Affairs CTO Charles Worthington appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health this week with the first public mention of his new second title: chief artificial intelligence officer.

Worthington, who has been at the agency since 2017, briefed lawmakers how the agency plans to integrate AI into its operations.

“While AI can be a powerful tool, we must adopt it with proper control, oversight and security,” Worthington said at the hearing. “The department is taking a measured approach as we begin to scale AI solutions to ensure that we’re adopting these tools safely and aligned to VA’s mission.”

Worthington spoke about the VA’s six-principled AI framework and mentioned more than 100 AI use cases (with 40 currently operational) the department is developing for projects like reducing burnout and improving health care delivery.  

The VA has joined the ranks of other federal agencies that have appointed new CAIOs after the White House’s October 2023 executive order tasked them with a number of responsibilities connected to the emerging technology.

The executive order marked the first time that federal agencies were all mandated to appoint a designated CAIO, whose responsibilities include “coordinating their agency’s use of AI, promoting AI innovation, [and] managing risks from the use of AI,” according to Office of Management and Budget guidance on AI governance. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Artificial Intelligence Institute (NAII) led by Dr. Gil Alterovitz contributed much of the work behind what preceded the executive order — the blueprints for an AI Bill of Rights in 2022.

Also on Worthington’s team is Kimberly McManus, who has served as deputy CTO for data at the department since April 2023. McManus is “a scientist, dedicated to translating cutting edge research and technology into impactful solutions. … She thrives when working with cross-functional teams and has led multiple data initiatives,” according to her bio during her time serving as a Presidential Innovation Fellow with the VA.

VA has not yet responded to a request for comment on the personnel moves. ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏ 

“‌VA aims to learn how AI technology could assist VA clinical staff in delivering better health care with less clerical work, enabling more meaningful interactions between clinicians and veterans,” Worthington said. “If used well, AI has the potential to empower VA employees to provide better health care, faster benefits decisions and more secure systems.” ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌

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