VA gets IT reorganization under way

The Veterans Affairs Department today launched its controversial IT reorganization, which transfers to the department CIO control of the IT budget, operations and maintenance. Systems development will remain in the benefits, healthcare and burial administrations under a federated model of IT restructuring.

VA will begin to detail to the department CIO those IT staff involved with operations and maintenance over the next several weeks, with permanent reassignment by October, according to a memo written by VA CIO Robert McFarland and obtained by GCN.

Although they are detailed to the department CIO's office, it will not change their day-to-day work, functions and supervisory reporting structure.

'Ultimately, the reorganization will affect 5,000 people,' he said, confirming the facts of the memo.

"These efforts are another important step to improve IT effectiveness and efficiency, ensuring veterans continue to receive 21st century health care," said VA secretary James Nicholson in a public statement about the IT reorganization.

Last week, McFarland resigned, effective April 30, saying the reorganization had 'produced a contentious atmosphere at the executive level, and my continued presence in it would be detrimental to the department's implementation of it.'

McFarland plans to schedule town hall meetings across the VA network to explain the reorganization plan and listen to employee ideas for improving IT operations and maintenance. VA also today will activate a Web site to provide communications for employees and partners about the IT realignment.

Nicholson acknowledged congressional leadership in helping VA to move toward this consolidation, which he said will 'enhance our operational effectiveness, provide standardization, and eliminate duplication.'

House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), who introduced the legislation to centralize VA's IT budget under the department CIO, said the reorganization was in response to years of cost overruns, mismanagement and lack of accountability. For example, VA spent $342 million on the Core Financial and Logistics System before pulling the plug on it in 2004. In the most recent hearing, Buyer said VA was not moving fast enough on the changes.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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