VA head lays down IT law

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi made it clear last week that he's the boss when it comes to spending money on information technology.

In a memo to department staff, Principi said retired Rear Adm. John Gauss, the VA's new assistant secretary for information and technology and chief information officer, must approve all IT projects.

"Effective immediately, please advise your respective [CIO] that they will take their technology direction and guidance from the assistant secretary for information and technology," Principi said.

Principi said Gauss must "approve planning and technical documentation prior to expending funds for any [IT] program, project or initiatives."

Principi took his step after some VA officials tried to change the name of the troubled Veterans Benefits Administration's Veterans Services Network, an electronic benefits program, to the Corporate Enterprise Benefits Claims Process, according to sources. The move was seen as an attempt to keep funding for the project even while it was under review.

"This directive covers all information and technology projects within your organization," according to the memo.

"Right now, there is this feeling out there that "it's my money' in whatever program," said one VA official who declined to be identified. "It's not "their money.' It is department funding."

Gauss, who until recently served as commander of the Defense Department's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, is expected to start his job just days after an easy Senate confirmation process. He has been working at the VA as a contractor and has been involved with developing an enterprise architecture plan.

At his Aug. 2 confirmation hearing, Gauss told the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee that IT "offers a means to break down bureaucratic barriers" and that his top priorities include developing an enterprise architecture for the department, integrating telecommunications networks and creating a strong information security infrastructure.

"Because the technology is moving fast," Gauss said, "it is important to have a full understanding of the risks."

Featured

  • Defense
    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) reveal concept renderings for the Next NGA West (N2W) campus from the design-build team McCarthy HITT winning proposal. The entirety of the campus is anticipated to be operational in 2025.

    How NGA is tackling interoperability challenges

    Mark Munsell, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s CTO, talks about talent shortages and how the agency is working to get more unclassified data.

  • Veterans Affairs
    Veterans Affairs CIO Jim Gfrerer speaks at an Oct. 10 FCW event (Photo credit: Troy K. Schneider)

    VA's pivot to agile

    With 10 months on the job, Veterans Affairs CIO Jim Gfrerer is pushing his organization toward a culture of constant delivery.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.