House panel OKs budget authority for VA CIO

The House Veterans Affairs Committee approved legislation late yesterday to give the Veterans Affairs Department's CIO central authority over the IT budget, personnel and assets in an effort to improve the department's IT management. VA agencies would retain operational responsibility.

The committee voted unanimously to send the Department of Veterans Affairs Information Technology Management Improvement Act of 2005, <"http: frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname="109_cong_bills&docid=f:h4061eh.txt.pdf"">H.R. 4061, to the full House.

VA deputy secretary Gordon Mansfield told a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing yesterday that the department had chosen a federated model under which it would centralize most IT components. Software development, however, would remain with VA administrations on health, benefits and cemetery administration.

House Veterans Committee chairman Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) said the federated model was inconsistent with the direction the VA should take.

"It is the committee's view that the federated model will not optimize IT support and service delivery VA-wide. The committee directs that VA shall not adopt the federated model for its IT organizational structure," Buyer said at the bill's mark-up.

Under the federated model, such technology operations as data centers and networks would remain controlled by VA administrations, with business applications developed and supported by each business line, whether medical care, pension, housing or finance, Buyer said.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs should maintain a fully centralized and empowered information technology management system," he added.

The legislation is a response to VA, such as the $342 million CoreFLS financial-management system and the $300 million HR Links automated personnel system.

Under terms of the legislation, each VA administration CIO would be designated as a department deputy CIO. Administration CIOs would maintain operational control of their IT assets and personnel to implement the department's IT strategic plan and integrated enterprise architecture along with the administration's mission. VA would report periodically to Congress on progress of centralization.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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