Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki personally called the chairman and chief IBM, Samuel Palmisano, this summer to express his dissatisfaction with the company's progress on development of a computer system to process veterans' claims for ailments associated with Agent Orange, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker told the Senate VA Committee on Wednesday.
Baker alluded to a post I wrote in September on Shinseki's pique with IBM.
Contractors often run late on government information technology contracts, and IBM did not "understand it was not business as usual" when it came to the small-($9.1 million)-but-important-Agent-Orange project, Baker said in response to a question from the committee's ranking member, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
IBM got the message it needed to meet its 90-day delivery schedule for the system after Shinseki called Palmisano, he told Burr. "Its not every day a Cabinet secretary calls a CEO," Baker said.
He also said he expects IBM to meet the delivery schedule, but may need a backup if IBM misses it. VA issued a proposal for a second contractor in September, although the department has not issued an award.
VA expects to be hit with 240,000 claims from Vietnam veterans exposed to the Agent Orange defoliant and Burr said the VA definitely needs the Agent Orange system as it faces "an implosion of the claims process".
Now, if only IBM and VA would answer my multiple, more-than-month-old queries on what problems they have encountered with the Agent Orange claims system, what it's supposed to do, and when it will go into operation.