VA asks for 11 percent more but IT budget doesn't change
Department is "very comfortable" with no increase in IT, official says
The Veterans Affairs Department has requested a 10.6 percent increase for fiscal 2012, while its IT is asking for a flat budget.
The department has asked for a $61.9 billion in gross discretionary funding for operational costs, while the department’s IT budget is requested to be $3.16 billion, the same amount approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee for fiscal 2011 in December. That's $145 million less than the fiscal 2010 enacted level of $3.3 billion.
“We are very comfortable with this level of investment in IT,” said W. Todd Grams, principal deputy assistant secretary for management, said on Feb. 14 in a call with reporters.
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The department also will continue to apply CIO Roger Baker’s Project Management Accountability System (PMAS) to evaluate ongoing IT development programs, Grams said.
“We have shorter milestones, and agile principles,” Grams said. “PMAS is showing an 80 percent success rate.”
One IT program that will increase dramatically is telehealth, in which mobile devices and instruments allow caregivers to provide care from remote locations. The VA, which already runs one of the largest telehealth programs in the world, wants to increase that funding by $63 million, which is a 76 percent increase, Grams said.
Due to improvements in IT programs, as well as in financial systems and other management systems, the VA in 2010 was able to eliminate three out of four longstanding material weaknesses cited on its balance sheet, Grams said. Those weaknesses involved financial systems functioning and compensation and pension liability estimates, he said.
Grams added that acquisition reforms at the VA account for $355 million savings in the proposed budget. Those savings will be achieved through greater use of reverse auctions, among other means, he told reporters.
The VA also expects to spend $183 million to deploy a new paperless system for claims processing and improve veterans’ access to benefits information.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.