Senate panel would cut VA's IT budget

VA IT programs to receive $3.16 billion in fiscal 2011

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a budget of $3.16 billion for IT at the Veterans Affairs Department for fiscal 2011, a slight dip from this year.

That amount is $145 million less than the $3.3 billion requested by President Barack Obama, which was the fiscal 2010 enacted level. VA officials described it as a “flat” budget when it was submitted to Congress earlier this year.

The VA budget is in the committee’s Senate’s omnibus appropriations bill, which must pass the full Senate and be reconciled with the House spending package before becoming law. The House also approved $3.16 billion for the VA's IT in its appropriations bill Dec. 7.

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Committee members said the cut reflected of efforts in the VA to improve IT development tracking and accountability.

“The decrease in this account is a result of the new accountability programs put into place last year, which have slowed development efforts while the VA shifts to a more responsible method of developing IT systems,” the committee said in a news release today.

Of the total, $1.5 billion goes for operation and maintenance of existing programs, $966 million is for staff salaries and expenses, and $743 million is for new program development.

However, the committee would place restrictions on the VA’s access to the new program money.

The panel said the $743 million in funding is restricted until the department submits a certification letter to the committee identifying the projects that are ready to receive funding and in what amounts. Also, department officials must give the committee a list of the total life-cycle development costs for each program receiving funds in fiscal 2011 and include those estimated costs in future budget submissions.

The committee directed that in 30 days, the department must identify development and operations costs for each IT project and provide monthly updates on those expenses.

Additional IT-related highlights of the panel's VA budget legislation include:

  • Providing $57 billion in total VA discretionary funding, which was $47 million over the president’s request, and $64 billion in VA mandatory funding.
  • Spending $250 million as requested for medical care in rural areas, including telehealth and mobile clinics.
  • Allocating $50.3 million for Arlington National Cemetery, which was $12 million above the request, including funding for digitizing records.

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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