VA budget redirects excess Y2K funding toward security

Budget of the United States Government Fiscal Year 2001

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President Clinton's fiscal 2001 budget request, released Monday, called for $1.5 billion in information technology funding for the Department of Veteran Affairs, including a surplus after fixing its Year 2000 problems.

The VA's IT budget is about the same as last year, increasing slightly for inflation. With the Year 2000 problem virtually solved, about $80 million during the next four years will be redirected to increase security in the VA's computer systems.

"It is a major concern," said Harold Gracey, the VA's chief information officer. "We do have vulnerability. We have a lot of sensitive and financial information."

Although the funds are not new money, he said, the VA will be able to use it to build better firewalls for its networks. Hackers have attacked the VA's World Wide Web site, but the agency's major data systems have never been compromised.

In addition, Gracey said, the department would be working to integrate its health, benefits and burial systems into one consolidated benefits system that "focuses on the veteran" rather than three separate branches.

Gracey and other VA officials began briefing congressional staff on Monday from committees that will decide how much money to appropriate for veterans affairs. The budget must still go through a lengthy hearing process and be approved by Congress.

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