VA's CIO is 'comfortable' with flat IT budget
IT funding proposed to stay at $3.3 billion in fiscal 2011
The Veterans Affairs Department’s information technology budget may be flat in fiscal 2011, but it is more than adequate for fulfilling the VA’s IT priorities, Roger Baker, the VA's chief information officer, told a House budget hearing today.
The VA is requesting $3.3 billion for its Office of IT in fiscal 2011, the same as the 2010 enacted budget.
“The IT budget request, while level, is fully supportive of our goals,” Baker told the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. “In effect, by implementing approaches to maximize the value of every dollar, we are giving ourselves an increase.”
VA freezes IT budget for 2011
"I feel comfortable with a flatline budget," Baker said. "I believe we have to have some fiscal discipline in government. My organization is a good place to start.”
The VA's IT organization also benefits from an 18 percent increase approved by Congress for fiscal 2010 and some carryovers and cost savings, he added.
For example, by freezing 45 underperforming IT projects in July 2009, Baker said the department has realized $54 million in cost avoidance in the current fiscal year. Thirty-two of the projects have restarted, and 12 have been terminated, he added.
In addition, effective Feb. 15, all IT projects at the VA are being managed under the Program Management Accountability System started in July 2009. The system will help the VA meet project milestones on schedule and in budget, Baker said.
Baker said he is applying five key management approaches to improve IT at the VA, including the program management system, prioritizing IT operations, transparent metrics for measuring progress, next-generation IT security and superior customer service.
The approaches will be fully implemented this year, he said, and once they are deployed, “we will be able to track every project and every dollar and make sure each project is on schedule, track metrics, increase visibility into security, have better privacy for veterans, and work more closely with the administration as our customers.”
One of the key IT projects is transforming the veterans benefits system into a paperless system. “That is where the savings will come in,” Baker said. “I expect to spend fewer dollars and get better results."
Meanwhile, the VA is slowing deployment of its Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise program. “We are being very careful on FLITE; we have slowed it down substantially. We want to make sure we can deliver on the asset management before we spend on the financial system,” Baker said.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.