Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., ranking member of the full House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced two new bills this week aimed at addressing the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) failures in IT modernization.
The committee held a hearing today to assess the Biden administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2024 VA budget and FY2025 advance appropriations request, where Rep. Takano announced the new bills.
“VA is modernizing almost every major IT system in the department, which I support, and which I believe is long overdue. What I don’t support is VA continuing to fail at these endeavors,” the ranking member said in his opening statement. “Thus, I’ve introduced two bills this week to address these issues.”
The first bill is what he called “a short-term solution” that would require the VA’s chief acquisition officer to enter into a contract for the independent verification and validation of certain modernization efforts of the department.
The second bill would create an undersecretary for management at the VA.
“Numerous other Federal agencies have such a position,” Rep. Takano said. “VA is the second largest government agency with an important mission and a large budget, but it is not run this way. We need to provide programmatic budget, acquisition management support, and standardization across the department to ensure that as budgets continue to grow at VA, we are spending that money appropriately and providing the best health care and access to benefits for veterans.”
Committee Chairman Mike Bost, R-Ill., also took issue with the VA’s IT efforts, saying that “VA is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year on failing IT projects.”
Nevertheless, VA Secretary Denis McDonough assured the committee that the VA takes “very seriously, the fact that our information technology investments enable everything else we’re doing.”
Secretary McDonough added that while he has not had the chance to look at the text of Rep. Takano’s legislation, his “first reaction” is that the VA still needs the undersecretaries it has to be confirmed.
Additionally, he expressed confidence in the VA’s new Chief Information Officer Kurt DelBene to get the job done, who he called both “a well-regarded technologist” and “a proven manager.”