VA restructuring IT management

Move gives more power to department CIO

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi has ordered the reorganization of information technology operations at VA headquarters by centralizing budget and management control in the chief information officer's office.

Principi said he ordered the changes because the VA had been hampered in carrying out plans to create "one VA," a pledge he made when he took office, and "time is running out."

"We have a lot of work to do," Principi told Federal Computer Week Aug. 9. "It's been very clear to me that this road is long and difficult."

In an Aug. 6 memo to key officers, Principi wrote: "Despite our best efforts, accountability for our IT resources remains elusive. To get from where we are to where we need to be across all VA's IT programs, we must reorganize how VA's IT is managed and financed."

There has been resistance to embracing the agency's enterprise architecture plan, Principi said. The implementation of cybersecurity initiatives is lagging, and CIO John Gauss has not been provided with IT budget details to "develop an integrated department IT portfolio."

Effective immediately, the VA's IT functions and personnel will be realigned under Gauss. Gauss also will be in charge of IT appropriations beginning Oct. 1.

The changes will affect the three CIOs within the VA — K. Adair Martinez, CIO at the Veterans Benefits Administration; Gary Christopherson, CIO at the Veterans Health Administration; and Joseph Nosari, CIO at the National Cemetery Administration. All three will become deputy CIOs reporting to Gauss.

"That is the kind of support and action that every CIO dreams of," said Roger Baker, a former CIO at the Commerce Department who tried to reorganize the CIO structure there in a similar fashion. "It's a real tangible demonstration that VA is very serious about getting much better at IT very quickly."

Although the changes won't have an immediate impact on operations at more than 150 VA hospitals, Gauss is holding a meeting Aug. 12-15 in Austin, Texas, for almost 300 VA IT employees to discuss the new structure and future changes.

In a separate memo, Gauss told all IT personnel that there would be "no job loss due to reorganization."

"Change doesn't necessarily need to be slow and ponderous," said Alan Balutis, executive director of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils. "I don't think there's anything wrong with going in sometimes and breaking a little china to achieve some results."

***

Changes in store

Anthony Principi, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, is reorganizing the information technology structure in the department. He plans to:

* Immediately move the VA's IT functions and personnel under John Gauss, the chief information officer, and permanently reassign them Oct. 1.

* Give the CIO executive authority over the VA's IT appropriations Oct. 1.

* Change the roles of the three CIOs within the VA to deputy CIOs reporting to Gauss.

NEXT STORY: VA realigning IT operations

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