Veterans Affairs

VA ordering system looks like when we 'first started using computers'

wounded veteran

The Department of Veterans Affairs embarked on an update of its fragmented, overlapping and out-of-date procurement system in 2011. Capitol Hill critics say implementation could be going faster.

"Companies doing business with the VA don't know what the rules are, and even the VA contracting officers get confused," said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) at a Sept. 20 House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.

According to a Government Accountability Office official, the ordering interface looks like something from when people "first started using computers."

A GAO report describes the VA procurement policy framework as being "outdated and fragmented," with different procurement regulations covering different parts of the agency. Revisions and standardization of the VA's overarching procurement regulation isn't due until 2018.

Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) said the way the system works right now is "unacceptable" and that she will be "anxiously waiting" any updates to the system. 

Greg Giddens, VA's executive director for acquisition, logistics and construction, said the agency has "strategies in place that align with GAO's recommendations" in most areas of oversight concern.

Acting Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer Rick Lemmon said the agency is in the process of developing and launching a new Windows-based ordering interface, to replace the aging, text-based legacy system in fiscal year 2017. The current VA system is integrated with the agency's homegrown VistA health record system, and is coded using the legacy MUMPS computer language.

Giddens noted that VA is in the midst of a financial management IT initiative, and launching plans for a digital healthcare platform. Both of these efforts "will impact legacy and contemporary supply-chain systems and interfaces, as well as influence system-improvement alternatives and investment decisions over the next two to five years," he said.

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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