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7/17/2009
03:35 PM
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Veterans Affairs Places 45 IT Projects Under Review

The VA made use of the federal government's new IT Dashboard, which is aimed at providing increased visibility into government IT spending.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is freezing and reassessing 45 IT projects that are behind schedule, over budget, or both.

Over the next few weeks, the VA will audit the on-hold projects and determine whether they need additional resources, new management, or can even be fixed at all. According to the Office of Management and Budget, those that can't be fixed will be canceled.

Among the most egregious offenders is a $108 million patient scheduling application that is 17 months behind schedule and 110% over budget. The system, under development for eight years, has yet to be deployed at any VA hospital. A large portion of the systems to be re-jiggered are healthcare IT initiatives, including a patient database, a case management system, and identity cards for veterans.

The move to reassess the VA's IT projects follows the recent release of the OMB's IT Dashboard, which is designed to let government agencies and the public better track federal IT spending. The IT Dashboard shows that, out of 41 projects defined as "major" by the VA, 63% carried significant concerns upon evaluation by the agency CIO and 49% were more than 90 days behind schedule.

"VA has a responsibility to the American people, who are investing millions of dollars in technology projects, to deliver quality results that adhere to a budget and are delivered on time," said VA secretary Eric Shinseki in a statement announcing the move. "They need to have confidence that the dollars they are spending are being effectively used to improve the lives of our veterans."

The VA has been on the receiving end of critical Government Accountability Reports and has suffered a number of widely publicized lapses in security and healthcare IT over the last few years. Now, with a new CIO in place, an influx of capital for healthcare IT, and impetus from a new administration and federal CIO, the agency is looking to turn some things around.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, who has been pushing for rationalization of government IT spending, was involved in the VA's reassessment and applauded the move. "It's really important to make sure at the agency level we have strong leadership when it comes to IT and commitment at the cabinet level," he said in an interview.

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