Friday, July 10, 2009

Panel approves record $3.3 billion IT budget for VA, with stipulations

Panel approves record $3.3 billion IT budget for VA, with stipulations
By Bob Brewin 07/10/2009

Susan Walsh/AP
A review by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki (shown here) and CIO Roger Baker may shift funding for IT development.

The House and Senate Appropriations committees both approved a record $3.3 billion information technology budget for the Veterans Affairs Department for fiscal 2010, but the Senate restricted obligation of $1.1 billion in development funds until the department's chief information officer completes a review of VA IT systems.

The Senate Appropriations Committee said in its report on the VA spending bill it passed on Tuesday that it will not approve expenditure of IT development funds until VA CIO Roger Baker or department Secretary Eric Shinseki identify which projects will receive funding in fiscal 2010 and the budget for the projects. Baker announced his review in June.

The committee added that the Program Management Accountability System launched by Shinseki and Baker in June to avoid long-term project failures by renewing focus on governance and accountability "is imperative if the VA is to modernize and transform its IT systems."

The House Appropriations Committee, which passed its version of the VA spending bill on June 23, did not restrict the department from spending development funds. But Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, said in a statement that he anticipated changes to the IT budget once Baker completes his review.

Baker has examined more than 280 VA projects and found many were at least 13 months behind schedule, more than half exceeded initial cost estimates and the quality of software had decreased substantially between releases.

Shinseki indicated in June that VA could halt development of IT projects that are behind schedule, saying it would "prevent wasteful spending and demand accountability from everyone involved in delivering and supporting the technologies that will help transform the VA."

Robert Charette, a risk management consultant who works with federal agencies, said Baker faced a daunting task to thoroughly evaluate 280 IT projects between now and Oct. 1, the start of the 2010 fiscal year. Baker "needs to do this right, as he will only get one chance" and he should not be forced to work against a tight deadline, he said.

Charette agreed that the Senate should restrict development funding until Baker completes his review because some projects could be canceled and others could require more funding than VA requested in its fiscal 2010 IT budget proposal drawn up months ago.

The House and Senate fully funded VA's fiscal 2010 IT budget request, an increase of $767.9 million, or 30 percent, from fiscal 2009. Funding for key development projects in fiscal 2010 includes $360.4 million, up $47.3 million, for HealtheVet systems, designed to replace the aging Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture system by 2018.

VA budgeted $397 million for its umbrella Enterprise IT Development Fund in fiscal 2010, unchanged from fiscal 2009, and $292.2 million for systems that support the Veterans Benefits Administration, more than double the $136.5 million fiscal 2009 budget.
Panel approves record $3.3 billion IT budget for VA, with stipulations


Thats an awful lot of software and hardware and they don't break it down, what programs are they working on? I have to admit I like the Health E Vet program that allows us veterans sing on the the VA system and order medication refills from the comfort of our living rooms, they say by next year we will be able to exchange notes with our healthcare providers and check on our schedualed appointments and check lab test results. Now this is first class healthcare, we have been hearing for years it was coming it has just taken them a long time to bring these programs online, I have been ordering meds for over 4 years online though.

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