VA preps a new enterprise architecture

VA preps a new enterprise architecture<@VM>Major programs

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Who's in charge

John A. Gauss

Assistant secretary for information and technology, and CIO

Edward R. Meagher

Deputy assistant secretary and deputy CIO

Bruce A. Brody

Associate deputy assistant secretary, Office of Cyber Security

Brian F. Henkel

Acting associate deputy assistant secretary for telecommunications

Allan Gohrband

Associate deputy assistant secretary for policy and program assistance

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IT spending on steady rise

Sources for Inside VA include the Veterans Affairs Department and Input of Chantilly, Va.

CIO John Gauss said VA will adopt a program management discipline to make sure that managers can meet cost, schedule and technical performance objectives.

The Veterans Affairs Department is ready to roll out its One VA Enterprise Architecture, one of the department's top five priorities under John A. Gauss, the new assistant secretary for information and technology, and CIO.

'The enterprise architecture defines the strategy for doing work and governance and the way to manage it,' Gauss said. 'The question is how to keep all the players engaged in the processes.'

One of the plan's first steps will be to abolish VA's CIO Council, which consists of the CIOs of VA and two of its agencies, the Veterans Benefits Administration and Veterans Health Administration, and replace it with an IT board this month, he said.

'The CIO Council is the IT folks,' Gauss said. 'The IT Board will be the IT folks and the functional process owners. So we have the business community mapped with the IT folks. That's key in governance.'

Work on the enterprise architecture began in May.

'VA selected the Zachman framework,' Gauss said, referring to an architecture designed by consultant and author John Zachman. 'Zachman's theory is you do the engineering before the manufacturing. If you do the manufacturing before the engineering, you will have plenty of rework to do.'

After a history of security weaknesses, VA is working aggressively to secure its IT infrastructure, said Gauss, who retired earlier this year from the Navy as a rear admiral and commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

Buck stops here

A new certification and accreditation process is under way for existing systems and those in development.

Gauss, the designated accreditation authority, will be responsible for approving all systems.

'Part of the accreditation process is to find out what the vulnerabilities are, then determine what steps you can take to mitigate them,' he said.

'We've issued a departmentwide firewall policy and a compliance date to report back,' Gauss added. 'We have also issued other directives to remove products that are vulnerable to security attacks. We are putting in virus protection and intrusion detection systems as soon as we can.'

Another priority is integrating the department's diverse telecommunications data networks.

A team of systems workers is determining the breadth of the One VA network and the depth of services that it should provide, Gauss said.

To streamline processes, the department will adopt a program management discipline to make sure that managers can meet cost, schedule and technical performance objectives.

'What we are doing is putting the capital investment process in place and overlaying a program management process so that they dovetail together,' Gauss said.

Prototype efforts are already being tested on programs in different stages of development.

Another priority is to improve customer satisfaction by developing a customer-focused metric to help deliver better services, Gauss said.

'How much time does it take for VA to send you a letter saying that you exist from the time you are separated from the service?' said Gauss, who served 32 years with the Navy before retiring. 'It took me 48 days. But why should it take 48 days?'
  • Government Computer Patients Record system. Scheduled to be delivered in phases, GCPR is designed for sharing medical data among the VA, Defense Department and Indian Health Service. VA health care providers will get a patient's complete medical history. The system will enable secure electronic exchange of the data between federal health care systems and public or private health care organizations.

  • HR LINK$. This is the department's initiative to replace the current Personnel Accounting Integrated Data system with a state-of-the-art commercial human resources and payroll system while re-engineering how these services are delivered.

    VA employees will have more access to elect, change and review their personal records, and managers will be able to create and classify positions online, use electronic document routing, and recruit and receive certificates of eligible candidates online.

    The department has not decided which system it will use or how it will integrate personnel management into the payroll system.

  • Veterans Services Network. The Veterans Benefits Administration's Vetsnet will automate benefits delivery and replace its antiquated Cobol-coded payment system. Some modules of the system are still in the works. The administration has conducted performance stress tests to see if Vetsnet can handle a full load. A claims backlog puts the pressure on VBA to roll out the system with caution.

  • VISTA. The Veterans Health Administration is developing a strategy to replace the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture. The mainframe system is programmed in M, which evolved from a language called Mumps, developed for heath care systems in the 1970s. Those who know the language are getting ready to leave the work force, making VISTA's replacement essential, VA officials said.

    VHA's goal for VISTA is to improve the quality and timeliness of health care service provided to veterans.
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