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Congress Wants Quarterly Reports on VA’s Tech Investments

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It appears the 115th Congress wants to keep a closer eye on the Veterans Affairs Department and its tech troubles.

Following a hearing Tuesday before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs that raised several issues, including that VA spends close to 90 percent of its $4 billion IT budget on outdated technology, the committee’s top two members requested the agency provide quarterly reports on its IT investments.

The request, made in a letter signed by committee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and ranking member Tim Walz, D-Minn., demands statuses on VA’s major IT investments, projects and programs, including its maligned Electronic Health Management Platform.

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“All of this information is already generated by [VA’s Office of Information Technology] project teams or contractors, we encourage you to provide it in its original format as much as possible to minimize the administrative burden,” the letter states. “Due to schedule constraints, quarterly briefings were not always possible. Written status reports will guarantee an uninterrupted flow of current information.”

Like other cabinet agencies, VA populates the IT Dashboard with data regarding its IT investments, providing a snapshot to the public about how taxpayer dollars are being spent.

But unlike some agencies, including the Defense Department, VA’s dashboard is not nuanced. For example, VA has rolled up dozens of IT systems into a single investment, making it impossible to determine from the data which individual systems are at risk and which are performing satisfactorily. On the other end of the spectrum, some agencies report data that shows the health of individual IT systems.

In any case, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs seeks answers regarding its IT investments by April. In addition, the committee seeks clarification on testimony and responses to questions from VA Chief Information Officer Rob Thomas on a number of issues.

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