VA takes its architecture step by step

Who's in charge

John A. Gauss

CIO and Assistant Secretary for IT

Bruce Brody

Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity

Frank Perry

Chief Technology Officer

Edward Meagher

Deputy CIO for Management

Top contractors

(In millions, July 2001 to June 2002)

Northrop Grumman Corp.


Compaq Computer Corp.


Electronic Data Systems Corp.


Datatrac Information Services


Integic Corp.




Micron Electronics Inc.


Information Control LLC


GRC International Inc.


Custom Hardware Engineering & Consulting Inc.




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

CIO John Gauss says VA has successfully implemented an enterprise antivirus program.

Ricky Caroti

The Veterans Affairs Department last month consolidated its security, management and budget systems and placed them under the direction of the CIO Office, but overseers say it has a long way to go before its enterprise architecture is on solid ground.

Programs that have come under the office's supervision haven't been fully integrated under the CIO's management. Their management rests on the successful development of the architecture, according to the department and other federal managers.

CIO John Gauss approved the department's Enterprise Architecture Implementation Plan in April, but VA still hasn't created a program management plan, which is an integral part of an effective enterprise architecture, said Joel C. Willemssen, managing director for IT issues at the General Accounting Office.

Willemssen said VA has a long road ahead in order to successfully consolidate all IT projects under the CIO's office.

Gauss testified before Congress in September that his office had made significant strides in its implementation of the architecture. The department identified 10 enterprise business functions, such as pension projects and compensation, and named seven functions that enable it to conduct business, such as finance and accounting, and human resource systems.

But Willemssen said such steps are not enough. Identifying business and enabling functions does not satisfy the VA's need for a program management plan and a 'sound foundation for managing the development, implementation and use of the architecture,' he said.

Gauss said the department is making progress toward its goal of establishing a single architecture, which it calls One VA.

The formula

Four steps are required before 'you have the necessary and sufficient data in your enterprise architecture so people can start looking at it as a road map to build their future IT projects,' Gauss said. The steps are:
  • Examine the department's functions

  • Create requirements

  • Find and consolidate duplicate processes

  • Decide on a functional baseline for what the enterprise architecture is meant to support.

The effort, however, has met with limited success. For example, the CIO office now oversees the VETSNET project, a compensation and pension system that VA has spent more than $40 million to develop, but citizens have not benefited, Willemssen said.

'After six years the VA still has significant work to accomplish, and could be several years from fully implementing the system,' he said in a letter to Congress.

But Gauss said the department has become more efficient in its IT purchasing and in its outsourcing of systems work.

The CIO office is in charge of modernizing the telecommunications infrastructure and enhancing cybersecurity.

Gauss said VA's Enterprise Architecture Council developed a network that 'you can understand and manage' and implemented a much-needed program management oversight process.

'Design and implementation efforts for this standardized architecture and configuration are under way,' Gauss said. He anticipates that initial deployment will start by March.

Gauss said VA has addressed one of its most daunting IT problems: the absence of an enterprise antivirus program. The department completed a departmentwide implementation of ePolicy Orchestrator antivirus software from Network Associates Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., for 220,000 PCs this summer.

'That implementation has been completed. We have eradicated several million viruses, introduced a standard firewall policy and have a program in place that is dependent on network modernization,' he said.


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