House bill would grant Veterans Affairs’ CIO budget authority

The chairman and the ranking Democrat of the House Veterans Affairs Committee plan to introduce legislation within the next week that would give the Veterans Affairs Department’s CIO authority over the VA’s IT budget, personnel and assets.

Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), ranking Democrat Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) and other committee members will introduce the Department of Veterans Affairs Information Technology Management Improvement Act of 2005.

The legislation is a response to VA system failures, such as the $342 million CoreFLS financial-management system and $300 million HR Links automated personnel system.

IT management has been a longstanding challenge across government. Most federal CIOs do not have explicit control over their IT budgets. Buyer said the legislation could make VA a model for other agencies.

The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has conducted six hearings on VA IT budget requests and programs, and the department’s inability to adequately explain these requests, as well as efforts to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse.

In addition, the Government Accountability Office has stated that VA has repeatedly failed to properly manage its major IT programs.

“This lack of accountability in VA IT spending must stop,” Buyer said in a statement.

In a recently completed examination of VA’s IT infrastructure and processes, Gartner Inc. said VA’s budgets vary and there was little accountability over how funds are spent or for IT management. Across the three VA administrations there is considerable redundancy in IT management in planning, design, development, acquisition, operation and oversight and related information resources and services.

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