After sidelining a financial management shared services arrangement with USDA, the VA is set to begin roll out of an integrated software-as-a-service financial management and acquisition capability across its components.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning an initial deployment this summer of its 10-year, $2.5 billion integrated financial management system.
The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) will be the first of VA's three main component agencies to use the integrated system when it comes online in July, Avie Snow, VA's associate deputy assistant secretary for financial business operations, said at an Association for Government Accountants conference in Washington, D.C.
There's a long and complex backstory to the move to a single financial management program, which VA calls Financial Management Business Transformation.
VA began developing the system about a year and a half ago after it got "divorced" from the Department of Agriculture's Pegasys Financial Services program, Snow said. VA began using USDA's shared service in 2016, but it found the approach wasn't working because of the unique VA requirements and budgeting processes.
The timing for the new system gives the agency "small bites" to prove out the capabilities while minimizing impact on users and mission, said Snow.
NCA is by far VA's smallest component agency with just 2,000 employees, according to the most recent data available from the Office of Personnel Management. By comparison, the Veterans Benefits Administration has more than 23,000 employees, and the Veterans Health Administration has more than 350,000.
The deployment at NCA will give VA time to test and adjust to the new system.
"We're not going to walk into a VA hospital and disrupt" operations, said Snow. Cemeteries tend to have smaller contracts and budgets to manage, she explained.
The initial application of the integrated financial management and acquisition service will roll forward next year to other components.
In remarks to reporters after the presentation, Snow said the VA aims to bring the Veterans Benefits Administration into the integrated system's financial operations in February 2021. She didn't say when the third component, the Veterans Health Administration, would be added.
In testimony at a December 2019 House hearing, VA's chief financial officer Jon Rychalski said the new system is scheduled for the first phase of implementation at Veterans Health in December 2024, with the full transition to be completed by the end of 2029. However, he said that the schedule is notional and he's hoping to move faster.
"Once we have cut our teeth at the first site and can confidently declare success, we are going to strategize acceleration of our timeline," Rychalski said. "Ideally, I would like to cut this timeline in half."