Buyer bill would give Veterans Affairs CIO IT budget authority

The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee has introduced legislation that would give the Veterans Affairs Department’s CIO authority over the department’s IT budget, personnel and assets in an effort to improve VA’s IT management.

Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) and 16 co-sponsors—including ranking Democrat Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) and the 15 committee members—offered the Department of Veterans Affairs Information Technology Management Improvement Act of 2005, H.R. 4061.

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.

“This bill will ensure accountability in VA IT spending, and reorganize VA’s IT infrastructure to improve the health care our veterans receive,” Buyer said in a statement. “We have seen unfinished projects and billions of wasted dollars over the years on mismanaged VA IT efforts,” Buyer added.

Under terms of the legislation, the VA secretary will submit a report to Congress that details the IT funds requested. Each VA administration CIO would be designated as a department deputy CIO. Administration CIOs would maintain operational control of their IT assets and personnel to implement the department’s IT strategic plan and integrated enterprise architecture along with the administration’s mission.

The House committee plans to mark up the legislation Thursday. On the same day, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee also will discuss IT management.

The Senate included language in its version of the fiscal year 2006 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies spending bill, which puts all VA IT into a department IT account.

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.

The Government Accountability Office also has stated that VA has repeatedly failed to properly manage its major IT programs.

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