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2/24/2010
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VA Extends IT Accountability Program

The Veterans Administration saved $54 million in fiscal 2010 by reforming its IT project management efforts.

An accountability program that flags IT projects behind schedule, over budget, or both, saved the Veterans Administration $54 million in its fiscal year 2010 budget. The department is now expanding the program to all of its IT projects.

On a conference call Wednesday, Roger Baker, the VA's Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, said the department scrapped 12 of the 45 projects it evaluated under the Program Management Accountability System (PMAS). It has restarted 32 of them, Baker said, while one is still awaiting final evaluation.

An IT dashboard has been used to track the status of projects under the PMAS.

Last summer the VA stopped production on 45 of its most troubled IT projects due to poor project management, and instituted PMAS to trouble-shoot and make sure IT projects get back on budget and on schedule.

PMAS requires IT projects to deliver new functionality within six months and keeps projects tied to established milestones, according to the VA. It's just one of the efforts the department is making to reform its IT management practices to ensure IT budgets are being spent effectively, the VA said.

To that end, Baker said the VA saved $54 million in its fiscal year 2010 budget due to the first PMAS evaluation. It also is nearly three months ahead of schedule in extending PMAS department-wide.

PMAS is related to the Obama administration's IT Dashboard an Internet-based system that lets the public analyze and evaluate government IT projects to see how tax dollars are being spent. The Obama administration has made transparency and accountability for government spending one of its priorities.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra Wednesday praised the VA as an example of how the president wants all government agencies to clean up IT project-management so budgets are being spent effectively. Kundra joined Baker on Wednesday's conference call.

"[The VA] is demonstrating what good government looks like," he said. "When we're experiencing such economic difficulty, we've got to get the best for every single dollar."

While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is slated for one of the government's biggest budget boosts next year, IT spending will remain flat, based on President Obama's proposed fiscal 2011 budget released earlier this month.

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