Will more money for VA fix the IT 'deficiencies'?

question mark made of dollar

The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to spend more money in 2015 on information technology, but will another $180 million – a 5 percent increase to $4.03 billion – be enough to shore up VA’s highly publicized IT vulnerabilities?

That was one of the chief concerns lawmakers voiced March 13 at a budget hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, in part because members have continually pressed VA’s leading IT officials over the last 18 months to fix IT security shortcomings that have led to multiple data breaches and compromised VA networks.

Based on its budget request, VA is making a concerted financial effort to improve its IT security posture, requesting $156 million for fiscal 2015, or $33 million more than it is spending in fiscal 2014.

“Will that amount finally assist VA in addressing numerous deficiencies we’ve brought to VA’s attention?” asked Indiana Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki handed the question off to Stephen Warren, CIO and executive in charge of VA’s Office of Information Technology, who asserted that it would -- but offered no further explanation.

Veterans Affairs and its subcommittees have made more than 10 formal requests for information regarding VA IT security woes since October, and Warren has responded only once. That response answered an Oct. 22 letter, but was deemed insufficient by committee members, a Capitol Hill source said. In total, VA has more than 110 outstanding requests for information on the same subject matter from Congress since June 2012.

The requested influx of cash for VA’s IT security might speak louder than words, though.

The boost includes modest funding increases for VA’s cybersecurity program, Network Operations Center, privacy program, business continuity and security operations center support. The largest jump in funding under VA’s information security spending would go to support mobile applications and wireless security. That component was not previously funded as a distinct line item, but the fiscal 2015 budget requests $25 million. Comparatively, VA would spend $45.4 million on cybersecurity and $45 million on its Network Operations Center.  

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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Reader comments

Sun, Mar 30, 2014 Elmo The ESE basement

Yeah, give warren more money, that sure will solve the problem. it goes from Warren to Tibbits in one swift move, the providers in VA get nothing, and it was like the VA never got the money. So more money is always welcome, but making sure Tibbits doesn't get it will be the key to making sure it get put to good use. Just ask VHA, they know what they're getting isn't what they're asking for, and what Paul does with it needs to be looked into.

Fri, Mar 21, 2014

Readers should take note of what Cloud 10 wrote.

Tue, Mar 18, 2014 Reality Check

110 requersts for info from Congress outstanding since 2012 and Warren is still there. His boss passes a question on and all he can say is yes it will. No details and no proof of why this unnamed solution will work. Is this not the same Warren that was the person who approved of an andut that found him the cause of most of the IT and employee issues SEVERAL years ago? Clearly there have been no improvements and as tech progresses and VA does not, it is actually falling further behind. The $30M question becomes why is that man still in his position? Clearly he is an abject failure who is collecting a very large paycheck at taxpayers' expense.

Mon, Mar 17, 2014 Oscar

I spent several unproductive years dealing with the VA's crack security group, who were mostly a bunch of useless paper pushers who only wanted to see tickets punched rather than actually making things better. Save the $30 million and spend it on something productive, like veteran benefits.

Sun, Mar 16, 2014 Cloud 10

No amount of money that congress would be entertain giving OIT could possibly be enough to get VA's security posture right and keep up with VHA's and VBA’s desires. As long as Warren is leading the way there's no logical reason to conclude anything but anecdotal and cosmetic progress will be made in any of the areas of security and customer service. From what I can tell Warren has not clue what my VISN is doing and he and his group of leaders aren’t asking us or asking VHA or VBA. At this point there are so many key senior positions filled with people who are either rumored to be on the bubble or rumored to be on their way out that it's amazing to think congress would agree to any increases until those positions are more stable. I know most are praying Warren is the first to go.

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