VA has shortage of IT program managers, CIO says

But VA IT organization and governance is strong, CIO says

The conversion to paperless benefits systems and other new information technology solutions at the Veterans Affairs Department is hampered by a shortage of experienced federal IT project managers, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker said today.

“On the development side, our issue is staffing — having enough folks to develop and drive a project forward,” Baker said at a breakfast conference sponsored by Bisnow.

Managing projects such as telehealth or making VA programs paperless “takes a certain caliber of individual, and we have a shortage within government. We cannot turn it over to non-government workers,” Baker said.

Baker also said organization and governance at the VA are in a strong position and the VA's management and its IT division are working closely together. A year ago, Baker halted 45 ongoing IT projects that he deemed to be underperforming.

“Internal IT governance at the VA is easier than at any other federal agency,” Baker said. “There is a focus on customer service at the VA, and we have a great working relationship with our customer [VA management].”

The consolidation of all IT units in the CIO’s office has been completed and is functioning well, Baker added.

“People ask me, ‘How hard was it to stop 45 IT projects?’ I sent out an e-mail. I did not have to negotiate or fight with anyone,” Baker said. “I cannot emphasize enough the sea change of that.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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