Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
Commentary
4/1/2009
00:13 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

$167M IT Project For Vets' Medical Care In Shambles

An IT project for military patients at Veterans Affairs hospitals has wasted 8 years and $167 million without producing a single usable application. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra could make a huge impact by jumping into this ugly mess and reversing this shabby and inexcusable treatment of our wounded veterans. Step one: fire every IT manager even remotely involved.

An IT project for military patients at Veterans Affairs hospitals has wasted 8 years and $167 million without producing a single usable application. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra could make a huge impact by jumping into this ugly mess and reversing this shabby and inexcusable treatment of our wounded veterans. Step one: fire every IT manager even remotely involved.Nextgov.com, which obtained a memo outlining the massive failure, described the situation this way:

The Replacement Scheduling Application Development Program, which VA began building in 2001, "still has not developed a single scheduling capability it can provide to the field, nor is there any expectation of delivery in the near future," wrote Dr. Michael Kussman, undersecretary for health at the Veterans Health Administration, in a March 20 memo to Stephen Warren, acting assistant secretary for information and technology.

Nextgov also reports that this current $167M sinkhole follows in what is becoming a tradition of failure at VA for IT projects: another scheduling project launched in 2001 lasted 5 years, burned through $75 million, and produced nothing of value. If we weren't talking about medical care for veterans who have given so much to this country while asking for so little in return, the sheer incompetence of those involved would be considered a twisted joke.

And as if that weren't maddening enough, the lead paragraph in the Nextgov article underscores what I believe will end up proving to be one of the central reasons behind this miserable failure: "…and senior executives are worried about the repercussions it could cause on the Hill and in the White House." Well it's good to see those geniuses have their priorities straight: instead of focusing on delivering the best possible care and treatment to our wounded veterans, they reveal that their top priority is how their pathetic performance will be perceived by politicians.

No doubt the post-mortem analysis will reveal major technical gaffes; there's surely enough blame to go around, and the Nextgov article does a very thorough job of chronicling the details - please take a moment to read it. But when heads of agencies reveal that their first concern is not the successful completion of life-saving efforts on behalf of our wounded veterans but rather their standing in the eyes of Congress, then both the certainty and the magnitude of their failure can hardly come as a surprise.

Fire them all, Mr. Kundra - that will be a huge step forward.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Business of Going Digital
The Business of Going Digital
Digital business isn't about changing code; it's about changing what legacy sales, distribution, customer service, and product groups do in the new digital age. It's about bringing big data analytics, mobile, social, marketing automation, cloud computing, and the app economy together to launch new products and services. We're seeing new titles in this digital revolution, new responsibilities, new business models, and major shifts in technology spending.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - August 27, 2014
Who wins in cloud price wars? Short answer: not IT. Enterprises don't want bare-bones IaaS. Providers must focus on support, not undercutting rivals.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Howard Marks talks about steps to take in choosing the right cloud storage solutions for your IT problems
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.