CIO closer to controlling VA's IT budget

The House has approved a plan to give the chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs complete power over the agency’s information technology budget.

The unanimous vote Wednesday is an important step in a plan to reorganize the VA’s IT shop, which includes centralizing funding and giving the CIO control of the budget.

"For too long, unfinished projects and billions of wasted dollars have hijacked the goals of a ‘One VA’ that will enable medical facilities all over the country to talk to each other, bringing efficiency and accountability to the department,” said Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The VA is seeking $2.1 billion for IT in fiscal 2006, but lawmakers have questioned how much money the department should receive after wasting billions in a series of IT failures.

Although the VA announced last month that it is reorganizing its IT operation and putting control of the shop’s money in the hands of CIO Robert McFarland, the legislation would create a permanent change in how the department handles funds.

Until now, the VA was a decentralized operation with its 1,300 hospitals and other outpatient facilities in charge of their own budgets. That made it difficult to take control of the money and avoid redundancies.

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