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Senate Allocates $3.3 Billion In IT Funds For VA

Much of the money would go toward electronic medical records projects at the Veterans Administration.

Under a spending authorization bill approved Monday by the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Veterans Administration would get $3.31 billion to spend on information technology in 2010, an increase of 30% over the agency's 2009 budget.

Much of that money would go toward electronic medical records projects at the VA, as well as the integration of those medical records with the medical records kept by the Department of Defense. In all, the committee recommendation includes $800 million for new program development.

"The committee understands that effective healthcare delivery in the 21st century requires robust and modern IT systems and remains strongly dedicated to providing the VA with the resources it needs to accomplish this modernization," the committee said in a report accompanying the bill.

Breaking down the $3.31 billion IT budget at the VA, $939 million will go to staff salaries and expenses and $1.57 billion will go to operations for existing programs, plus the $800 million for new programs. However, much of that money will be held back while the agency's CIO and secretary undertake a review of IT spending.

That review -- which grew out of the $167 million failure of an appointment scheduling application earlier this year -- has so far found that, of 282 IT programs at the VA, 48 were more than 50% over budget or at least a year behind schedule.

Last month, incoming VA CIO Roger Baker introduced a new program management approach that focuses on incremental development, which will be implemented over the next year.

"VA has faced a number of highly public technology challenges over the last few years, including the loss of veteran’s information and failed systems development programs," Baker said in his confirmation hearing at the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs in May. "There is no easy path, no simple answer, and no short-cut solution to creating a strong IT capability at VA."

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on leading-edge government IT -- and how the technology involved may end up inside your business. Download the report here (registration required).

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