VA aces Exhibit 300s

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the first to do so, its CIO says.

Veterans Affairs

Forward thinking enabled the Department of Veterans Affairs to become the first federal agency to pass 100 percent of its Exhibit 300 business cases on the first try, according to Ed Meagher, the VA's acting chief information officer.

Exhibit 300s are capital asset plans that the Office of Management and Budget requires for all major information technology acquisitions. The business cases identify risks associated with each purchase and help determine the degree to which agencies' IT plans comply with the President's Management Agenda.

Meagher announced this morning that OMB notified the VA last week that the agency has passed all 59 of its Exhibit 300 cases. The perfect performance is the result of a disciplined process that started well before OMB's deadline, he said.

"A year ago, we made this a goal and we decided that the only acceptable thing was 100 percent passing on the first go," Meagher said. "As far as we know, this is the first time that's ever happened."

The VA's strategy included internal scoring with qualifications that were more difficult to meet than OMB's standard criteria.

"We scored these last May, and we took the OMB criteria and made it harder," Meagher said. "We evaluated ourselves more stringently than OMB said they were going to, so we knew internally that each one of our cases was going to pass before we ever submitted them."

"We were ahead of the power curve," he added. "It really gets down to that this was one of our goals and that this discipline was good for us."

One of the biggest tasks facing the VA during this process was having program managers for each of the 59 cases reach appropriate levels of certification. Many program managers attended seven weeks of training during the year to meet Level 3 certification standards, Meagher said.

"It's a very, very worthwhile discipline," he said. "It makes you spend a year thinking about your projects. Do they integrate? Do they return value for the investment? The Exhibit 300 process requires you to do that earned value analysis so that you know."

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