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A Year In, VA Progresses with Departmentwide IT 'Transformation'

Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald

Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald // Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

About a year into its IT modernization effort, the Veterans Affairs Department has cut down employee use of “prohibited software” by 90 percent, a new agency report shows.

Last year, VA Secretary Robert McDonald introduced plans for a large-scale, departmentwide “transformation” that included making its Office of Information and Technology less complex and “easier to do business with,” Chief Information Officer LaVerne Council wrote in a new OI&T progress report. 

The redesign tasked OI&T with updating many of its operations, such as the National Service Desk, which provides IT customer service, which may soon include customer callbacks and more metrics tracking each reported incident, the report said.

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In the past year, OI&T created several new teams, including the “Enterprise Cybersecurity Strategy Team,” which focuses on “eliminating security weaknesses” before the end of 2017; an IT communications group that “centralizes OI&T communications for clear, consistent messaging,” and an employee engagement team that aims to create a “culture of excitement for the mission, the report says.

The assessment concluded it had reduced the number of privileged accounts that had access to VA systems by about 95 percent, and mitigated 21 million security vulnerabilities.

Employee perception of the office has been improving over the past few quarters, the report said. In the first quarter of the 2016 fiscal year, just about 51 percent of employees gave the OI&T positive scores in “Innovation,” compared to 61 percent in the third quarter. Forty-two percent gave positive scores for “employee input/empowerment” in the first quarter, compared to 53 percent in the third.

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