Kurt DelBene told lawmakers on Wednesday how he plans to steer a department-wide digital transformation in his first public appearance since the Biden administration tapped him to serve as the VA's chief information officer.
The new chief information officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs laid out his vision for enhanced information technology management and expanded collaboration with the contracting community in his first congressional testimony since he was confirmed to the role by the Senate in December.
Kurt DelBene, a former longtime senior executive at Microsoft who previously served as senior adviser to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, was tapped by the Biden administration to serve as CIO for the department late last year. This week, he told lawmakers he plans to act as a change-agent and lead a department-wide digital transformation, modernizing its IT systems and improving internal software development offerings, including low-code and no-code solutions.
"In this work, we need to consider a number of questions including: how we can best do software and services development in an environment of heavy outsourcing to external contractors," DelBene told the Subcommittee on Technology Modernization (Committee on Veterans' Affairs subcommittee on technology modernization.
The VA received a C+ score on the latest FITARA scorecard, maintaining the grade after dropping from a B+ in 2020, in part due to its low marks on the categories of "cyber" and "modernizing government technology."
The CIO said all of the areas assessed in the scorecard are important benchmarks, but added that he was committed to "driving an agenda" which improves the department's overall IT management rather than meeting certain marks during the next evaluation.
"I would love for our scorecard to not go down," he said, "but I'm much more focused on making sure that we get to excellence in each of those dimensions.
As part of an ongoing financial management business transformation, DelBene said the VA is currently implementing an enterprise-wide, cloud-based Integrated Financial and Acquisition Management System (iFAMS) after migrating segments of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to iFAMS last year.
DelBene said he was committed to ensuring the department's technical staff become further integrated with contract organizations "so they act more as one," while expanding internal software development beyond ongoing operations within the chief technology office and DevSecOps organization, noting that "one place for a huge area of opportunity is low-code and no-code solutions."
"We can rapidly build a solution and deliver it to one of the stakeholders, whether it's [Veterans Health Administration] or [Veterans Benefits Administration]," he added, "and then build platforms for continued innovation."
DelBene also suggested setting new standards requirements for the contracting community and implementing new initiatives to expand diversity and increase relationships with small businesses in the contracting community.