VA plan thaws IT projects

The Department of Veterans Affairs lifted its temporary freeze on new information technology projects after issuing its enterprise architecture plan last month.

However, VA Secretary Anthony Principi said that as a way to keep track of resources and unify the VA, chief information officer John Gauss or his designated representative still must approve each IT project and the money to pay for it.

The enterprise architecture plan, released in October, establishes ways to streamline IT within the largest federal civilian agency. It is designed to consolidate systems and make them interchangeable.

"I think you can get a bigger bang for the buck," Principi said in a Nov. 26 interview. "I don't want to manage everything from Washington, but I do want to put in place processes, procedures and systems to better manage the procurement process, to better oversee the management of these large IT projects that we spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on."

The enterprise architecture plan is designed to halt the development of duplicate systems, improve accountability and contain costs. And by building an agencywide system, department officials hope the architecture will improve the VA's responsiveness to its prime customers — veterans.

Gauss said some changes would have to be made to the enterprise architecture plan to address post-Sept. 11 fears. He said the changes involved increasing physical security at its data centers.

"We're going to end up focusing very early on what the physical layout of the enterprise architecture should be, specifically as it relates to our data centers and our ability to have them back each other up electronically through a high-performance network," said Gauss, who also attended the interview.

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