Washington, D.C. —The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing today on VA’s information and technology (IT) reorganization and potential legislative solutions. The Congressional Research Service provided general background and the legislative history of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the federal level. Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified that the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 mandated that federal departments establish the position of CIO. However, VA did not appoint a permanent CIO position until August 2001. Gartner Consulting, a private contractor hired by VA to assess the department’s IT infrastructure testified on its findings and its recommendations regarding several reorganization possibilities.

“I have been working to resolve VA IT issues for the past six years. Frankly, my patience has been exhausted with the lack of accountability by our government’s second largest agency,” said Buyer.

Chairman Buyer and Ranking Member Evans, along with other members of the Committee, will offer legislation to move the VA IT infrastructure to a centralized system. The draft bill is consistent with one of the key recommendations in VA’s commissioned report.

“This centralizing of the VA will allow for a more transparent budget process that should streamline the IT decision making process within VA. The bill will also empower the CIO with greater overall authority in allocating all IT funds, personnel and resources,” said Buyer.

Currently, VA IT funding merely passes through the VA CIO who has little authority over the actual expenditures for the VA’s three administrations – the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Cemetery Administration. The GAO has testified 12 times since 1998 that the Department has encountered persistent problems with managing its major IT programs. Examples include:

- $600 million plus for a decade of VETSNET – the automated compensation and pension claims processing system that still has not been implemented in 10 years.

- $342 million for CoreFLS – the failed financial management system.

- $300 million for the HR Links – the failed automated personnel system.

- $485 million annually to maintain VISTA, VA’s 25 year-old medical information system.

In FY 2004 and FY 2005, VA received $1.4 and $1.6 billion respectively for IT funding. For FY 2006, VA’s projected spending for IT will be over $2 billion.

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