Leaving VA, Bubniak offers IT wisdom

Leaving VA, Bubniak offers IT wisdom

'There should be great stress on enterprise architecture within each agency,' VA's recently retired Robert Bubniak says.

Robert P. Bubniak ended what he called a long ride in public service last month when he retired as the associate deputy assistant secretary for telecommunications at the Veterans Affairs Department.

After 20 years in the Army and 17 years in civilian service with government, he had this advice for information technology administrators: Get everyone on the same page.

'There should be great stress on enterprise architecture within each agency so that any procurement or information technology services conform with some kind of standards,' Bubniak said.

This step would ensure that taxpayers' money is well-spent and that services are adequately provided to citizens, he said.

Put to the test

Bubniak worked at the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department, but his biggest challenge came in 1998 when he joined VA.

The department was searching for a contractor to replace its integrated data communications system. The network supplied data communications to 450 VA locations and about 600 customer service points nationwide. It also provided access to critical applications and systems such as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture; Integrated Funds Distribution; Control Point Activity, Accounting and Procurement system; and Personnel Accounting and Integrated Data system.

After the original contract expired in May 1999, Bubniak adopted a centralized approach for the migration of VA's network service to Sprint Corp.'s public network under the FTS 2000 contract.

'I was able to elicit the support of administrations such as the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration so that all orders were handled centrally,' he said. 'That coordinated, collaborative effort went a long way.'

Daily communication among the administrations was key to an easy transition, Bubniak said.

As chairman of the Interagency Management Council, he established a transition task force that worked with Sprint, the General Services Administration and other agencies to identify and resolve critical issues affecting the transition from FTS 2000 to FTS 2001.

At VA, which has faced serious computer security weaknesses in recent years, Bubniak in March set up a position for a cybersecurity officer.

'It was my sense that we needed someone who could work collaboratively with the administration and provide the necessary direction in the full spectrum of the security issue,' Bubniak said.

VA is among a handful of departments that have hired a senior executive to lead cybersecurity efforts.

The department also is readying a draft policy on adopting a project and program management approach, Bubniak said.

Handle it one way

'There were different ways within the department on handling projects,' he said. 'I felt that there needed to be some dovetailing of project management with capital investment planning.'

Bubniak drew on his two decades of military experience when coordinating VA's efforts. He said he learned the importance of timely service as an Army Signal Corps operations officer, when he helped install, operate and maintain telecommunications systems linking three headquarters in Germany.

'At VA, we need to have the same kind of responsive telecommunications services because people's lives depend on it,' he said. 'Doctors may need to confer with a doctor or specialist at some other location. So you have to make sure that the services provided are responsive and reliable.'

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