VA still seeks cloud solutions after canceling contract

cloud concept with man in suit

The Department of Veterans Affairs canceled its five-year, $36 million cloud-based enterprise email contract with HP Enterprise Services earlier this month, but the agency isn't giving up on its plans to harness the cloud.

Even though several agencies have saved money by making similar transitions, VA does not plan to issue a new solicitation for the cloud-based email project it had picked HP to carry out, according to a spokesperson.

Still, VA appears to still be committed to meeting the administration's "cloud-first" mandate.

"VA is dedicated to cloud solutions as a strategy to improve efficiency and service delivery," the spokesperson said in a statement to FCW.

The VA spokesperson referred FCW to existing VA systems that take advantage of cloud technology as evidence the sun isn't setting on cloud within the agency.

VA's Veterans Benefits Management System, which is designed to help the agency transition to faster, more efficient paperless claims processing, is based on the cloud, as is VA's cloud-based Chapter 33 Long Term Solution software, designed to deliver education benefits under the G.I. Bill.

"The department is currently using cloud technology in several areas critical to serving veterans, including tools to help end the benefits claims backlog," the spokesperson said.

As FCW first reported, on July 16 VA canceled what was – when it was signed in November 2012 -- one of the federal government's largest cloud computing contracts with HP, citing a material change in the agency's requirements.

The agency offered no further explanation on what changes it made to its requirements, but in procurement terms, the contract was terminated "at the convenience of the government," meaning VA has to pay $150,000 to HP for services performed, plus a potentially sizable settlement.

Under the contract, HP was to eventually move all 600,000 VA employees to Microsoft government community cloud email and calendar services.


About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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Government Cyber Insider tracks the technologies, policies, threats and emerging solutions that shape the cybersecurity landscape.


Reader comments

Mon, Jun 30, 2014

The only thing that failed in the VA's cloud email attempt was a lack of clear business policy. To my knowledge, a year later, NARA has yet to issue email records management and retention guidance. What's interesting is no one bothers to point out the new system would exceed what their EXISTING system is not doing today. Lets let that sink in. Instead of getting at least some incremental improvements while saving some money, the whole thing is halted because the solution isn't perfect. Yeah, that was real smart. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. We just failed that one :p And no, I don't work for the VA but spent a significant amount of time in a past life being an email administrator for a large agency and it's beyond annoying when failures in business policy are blamed of a lack of IT leadership. There was nothing technical that lead to the cancelling of this procurement - but poor coordination and mismanagement between various internal entities within the same organization. I know the IG's like to think of themselves as external to organizations, and boneheaded pass/fail decisions like this are the result of positions like that being taken to the extreme.

Wed, Jul 31, 2013 Rainy Dayz The Cloud

I second the first commenter. Using VBMS as the VA's poster child for cloud use in an enterprise is laughable. I hope it can be tuned around to work well so the VA can get back into the business of serving vet claims, but the "cloud" and the VA IT have been a bad blind date so far. The Vas cloud email attempt is not the first and probably won't be the last failed cloud project the VA attempts and spends gobs of money on. It will only start making smart technology decisions when those decisions come from the its own seasoned technology community, and not from an appointed politician who is around for a 4 -6 year stint and then leaves for greener pastures. Cloud technology is hot, but doesn't fix every technology, manpower, funding, and maintenance problem. It's use case is still up in the air for true secure government use. Vendors stand to rake in mega bucks when they sign these cloud contracts, don't be fooled to think they have your interest primarily in mind, they have shareholders to report to, you forget.

Tue, Jul 30, 2013

Please no.... Any time something with the track record of VBMS is being referenced as a positive something has gone very wrong in the thought process department. Like CoreFLS and FLITE, VBMS has been a career-ender and fodder for congress and the press alike; so the thought of VBMS being used to prop-up or used as an argument for any particular technology is comedy at its worst.

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