GAO maps 'One VA' progress

"Information Technology: VA Actions Needed to Implement Critical Reforms"

To provide unified services to veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs

must look at its processes and information technology investments departmentwide

rather than allowing each administrator to pursue individual initiatives,

according to the General Accounting Office.

A GAO report follows up on an evaluation presented to the House Veterans'

Affairs Committee in May and lays out the changes the department has made

to improve IT decisions and work toward the vision of "One VA."

The new report makes several suggestions for how VA could continue improving

and how to finish its implementing the Clinger-Cohen Act, which aims to

place private-sector discipline on federal IT expenditures.

"Strengthening VA's architecture and IT investment decision-making process,

along with implementing a departmentwide approach to business process re-engineering,

are essential to the department's achieving its "One VA' vision," wrote

Joel Willemssen, director of civil agencies information systems at GAO.

The report's suggestions include:

* Establishing and monitoring deadlines for completing formal in-process

reviews at key milestones in a project's life cycle.

* Providing decision-makers with information on lessons learned from

post-implementation reviews of IT projects so that they can use such data

in judgments about other projects.

* Filling the position of assistant secretary for information and technology

as quickly as possible to provide the needed leadership for the "One VA"

vision.

* Reassessing VA's decision to delegate business process re-engineering

to individual administrators.

VA is moving forward with many of the recommendations and disagreed

only with the last suggestion. The agency believes that any re-engineering

must be done by the program administrators instead of a centralized department

official because the new processes must be tied closely to program goals.

"The department's business process re-engineering is a constantly evolving

function that is not conducted in a vacuum," wrote Dennis Duffy, assistant

secretary for planning and analysis at the agency.

But if the agency allows that responsibility to remain with individual

administrators, "this approach would make it more difficult for the department

to provide efficient, unified services to veterans," Willemssen wrote.

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