VA to expand central network to all facilities

The Veterans Affairs Department has started connecting their hospitals, medical centers and other facilities around the country to a central data network under its One VA plan.

The goal is to link all users by Aug. 31, said Ed Meagher, the department's acting CIO. He spoke today at a breakfast sponsored by Federal Sources Inc. of McLean, Va.

'Without the data network, we can't do anything,' he said. 'Everything but the facilities' individual LANs will be connected to the network by next August.'

Before beginning this phase of the project, Meagher's team reduced 39 separate networks to one four-node network run by Sprint Corp. That work wrapped up Sept. 30, he said.

'We made things a lot better and now can operate within the core network at the speed of light,' Meagher said. This next step will be an expensive and daunting task, he said, 'but we have to do it to have a veteran-centric view of our data and systems.'

Besides the progress VA is making with its network, Meagher said his staff also has made strides on cybersecurity and preparing its IT business cases.

'Over the past two years, we have gone from the worst agency regarding IT security to one of the best,' he said. 'We now spend about $100 million a year on IT, and we would probably spend more if we could.'

VA also received approval from the Office of Management and Budget on all 59 IT business cases for their fiscal 2005 budget submission, Meagher said. This is the first time OMB approved all of an agency's business cases after the first review, he added.

'For each project, we asked the teams to prove the value to the agency mission before moving forward and integrated the project flow so we could spot repetitive requests,.' Meagher said.

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