VA picks small biz contractor for open-source ecosystem

The Veterans Affairs Department has selected a small business as the custodial agent for an open-source ecosystem development program to modernize the VA's VistA electronic health record system.

The Veterans Affairs Department has selected a Reston, Va. small business to be the custodial agent managing open-source efforts to modernize the department's longstanding electronic health record system.

The VA awarded a $5 million contract to The Informatics Applications Group, according to a June 20 announcement on the Federal Business Opportunities website. The management and IT services company, which refers to itself as “tiag” on its website and also is known as TIAG, previously has contracted with the Defense Department.

TIAG is included on several federal acquisition schedules and programs and certified as a small business under the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program. Its co-founders are Dalita Harmon, president and CEO, and Fred Goeringer, co-founder and managing principal.


Related stories:

VA, DOD have slightly different views on open source development, Baker says

Common VA-DOD health record interface nearing completion


The custodial agent is expected to play a major role in updating the Veterans Health Information Systems Technology Architecture (VistA), which is written in “MUMPS” computer code, VA officials have said. The agent would manage an open source “ecosystem” of application developers that will be involved in creating open source-coded applications that would either replace or augment portions of VistA. The agent is expected to be involved in initiating, accepting or rejecting proposals in the ecosystem.

The VistA modernization project also affects the modernization of DOD's digital health records system. The leaders of DOD and the VA have jointly decided on a plan to develop a single common platform for e-medical records in the coming years.

Initial reaction to the custodial agent choice was somewhat mixed. Some questions are being raised about TIAG’s depth of experience. A brief review of TIAG's website did not reveal mentions of open source development or VistA contracting.

Fred Trotter, an open-source software advocate, wrote in his blog on June 20 that TIAG appears to lack substantial experience in either open-source development or VistA.

“It appears, at first blush, that these guys are all going to be VistA newbies,” Trotter wrote. “It also appears that they are newbies to Open Source generally. I would have loved to see some Linux Foundation/Apache Foundation/Mozilla Foundation type credentials. I do not see that here either.”

When asked about the company's experience with open source and VistA, VA officials responded with this statement: “The proposal submitted by TIAG was determined to represent the best value to the government, given consideration of the evaluation factors and criteria stated in the solicitation.”

TIAG officials were not immediately available to comment on the company’s experience.

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