Bill would tighten VA's IT spending controls

A bill introduced in the House Oct. 17 would tighten spending controls for information technology at the Department of Veterans Affairs and give the chief information officer control over the department’s entire technology budget.

Sponsored by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the legislation is intended to rectify what some lawmakers view as out-of-control IT spending by one of the largest agencies in the federal government.

In the past decade, the VA has spent more than $10 billion upgrading its IT systems to deliver better services to veterans. At the same time, the agency has experienced expensive IT failures. Several recent Government Accountability Office reports state that the VA lacks adequate program management for almost all of its major IT programs.

The new legislation would give the VA’s CIO authority over resources, budget and personnel related to the department's IT operations. It would tighten oversight of IT projects throughout the department, which has more than 200,000 employees, and require a strategic plan for all IT spending.

The legislation would give the department’s CIO the power to select CIOs for the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Cemetery Administration. Each position would be designated as a deputy CIO reporting directly to the department CIO.

At a hearing last month, Buyer said he was concerned about the “cost of letting the bureaucracy maintain the status quo.” He said the organization now in place at the VA “lacks the authority to provide a better service to the veteran.”

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