VA faces major hurdles to comply with FISMA, audit finds

The Veterans Affairs Department has "significant" obstacles to overcome to meet its FISMA compliance goals, a new audit reports.

Despite a major improvement in cybersecurity, the Veterans Affairs Department still has “significant” obstacles to overcome to meet federal cybersecurity standards, according to a new report released by the VA’s Office of Inspector General.

According to a summary of the report, the VA “continues to face significant challenges in complying with the requirements of FISMA due to the nature and maturity of its information security program. In order to better achieve the FISMA objectives, the department needs to focus on several key areas.”

The new fiscal 2009 report is a summary of the VA’s compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and was prepared by the Deloitte & Touche LLP independent accounting firm. The IG released the summary March 4. The full report isn't being released to the public because it is considered sensitive information.

VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker said he agreed with the findings.

“VA Office of Information and Technology concurred with the IG's report; it is an excellent work.  As the report pointed out, VA made great progress in information security, and we still have work to do,” Baker wrote in an e-mailed statement.

The VA a year ago had received much-improved FISMA ratings from the Office of Management and Budget.

In the OMB’s fiscal 2008 report on FISMA compliance, the VA is listed as having a “satisfactory” certification and accreditation process; a “satisfactory” privacy impact assessment process; an “effective” plan of action and milestone process; and an information technology system inventory that is 96 percent to 100 percent complete.

The year before, in its fiscal 2007 report from OMB, the VA was listed as having “poor” certification, accreditation and privacy processes, an ineffective plan of action and milestones, and an inventory that was 81percent to 95 percent complete.

The fiscal 2009 audit has been forwarded to the OMB for inclusion in the upcoming annual report on governmentwide FISMA compliance.

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