Report praises VA progress on IT

VA Information Technology: Management Making Important Progress in Addressing Key Challenges

Led by a strong secretary committed to improving performance, the Department of Veterans Affairs has made great strides toward fixing problems in its information technology systems, according to a report released today.

The General Accounting Office report found that the agency has shown "clear progress" in the past six months in upgrading its management of information technology. In the past, GAO has criticized the VA for its lapses in security, management and spending.

"The VA continues to make important progress toward improving its management of information technology, with the attention and support of its executive leadership contributing significantly to ongoing actions to improve key areas of IT performance," the report said.

The report was released at a hearing today by the House Veterans Affairs Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, which reviewed the VA's progress in developing an enterprise architecture, tightening its cybersecurity program and realigning the department's IT functions.

"The restructuring of responsibility and accountability directly to the CIO is a particularly important step -- one that could set the stage for VA truly achieving its 'one VA vision,'" the GAO report said.

VA Secretary Anthony Principi has made "one VA" his goal, including the integration of disparate technology systems and streamlining more than 160 VA hospital IT systems across the country.

Nevertheless, some problems remain persistent, according to Richard Griffin, inspector general at the VA.

Griffin said in a report that although the VA has taken significant steps to tighten security, the department "needs to take additional actions to establish necessary security controls to proactively identify and prevent information security-related risks and implement corrective action."

However, John Gauss, the VA's chief information officer, told the subcommittee that substantial progress is being made to tighten security. In July, the VA awarded a contract to a consortium of five small businesses for VA security operations. And the VA has established a global anti-virus capability that has successfully detected and deleted more than 2 million viruses.

"With respect to cybersecurity, the department has made significant progress in correcting the deficiencies identified by our Office of Inspector General and the GAO," Gauss testified.

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