VA to save $37M through cutbacks in replacement scheduling program

Single program represents the bulk of the savings from 12 cancelled projects

The bulk of the Veterans Affairs Department’s projected savings from 12 canceled information technology projects are from a single program to redesign the VA’s online appointment scheduling system, an agency spokesman confirmed today.

The VA expects to save $37 million this year by halting work on a portion of its Replacement Scheduling Application Development program, according to a list provided by Drew Brookie, deputy press secretary at the VA. The cutback represents about two-thirds of the $54 million savings for 2010 claimed by the VA on Feb. 24 as a result of terminating the 12 troubled IT projects.

Other halted projects included a portion of the VA’s Enrollment System Redesign, which accounted for $6.3 million in savings, and a portion of the Pharmacy Re-engineering project, which accounted for $6.6 million in savings, Brookie said. The total budget for the enrollment system redesign was $24 million, and for pharmacy re-engineering, $23 million, for the current fiscal year.

Also on the list, Radiology Standardization is projected to save $2.3 million; Delivery Service, $1.4 million; Organization Service, $1.4 million; and Rights Management Server, $100,000. The remaining five projects on the list of 12 halted projects are projected to yield no savings.

VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker suspended 45 failing IT projects in July 2009 and placed them under a Program Management Accountability System to meet regular milestones. On Feb. 24, Baker said 32 of those projects had been restarted and 12 had been canceled. One project remained suspended.

The VA also is using an online IT dashboard to identify and track troubled projects.

Among the underperforming programs, the Replacement Scheduling Application Development program -- designed to  enable veterans to electronically schedule patient appointments at VA centers -- has spent roughly $167 million to date. Although the scheduling program is listed among the 12 terminated projects, it still could be revived, Stephen Warren, principal deputy assistant secretary for information and technology at the VA, told FCW on Feb. 26.

If that program is revitalized, it would likely have a different format, with a different approach and a different project name, Warren said. “The requirement has not gone away,” he added. “The need is critical.”

Also, other programs on the list of 12 canceled programs may be revived as well, according to Warren.

Other programs on the list have several components, including the Pharmacy Re-engineering program. A portion of pharmacy re-engineering was dropped, and a portion was restarted, Brookie said.

The “Pre 1.0” portion of pharmacy re-engineering was stopped, the “Pre 0.5” portion was re-planned, renamed, approved for a restart in October 2009 and “is now continuing toward its next milestone,” Brookie said.

“The business functionality needs from PRE 1.0 still exist, however, and will be re-planned and incorporated into future pharmacy reengineering increments,” Brookie added.

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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