ROBERT N. MCFARLAND
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR INFORMATION AND TECHNOLOGY
SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
U. S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
March 17, 2004
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am very pleased to appear before this committee representing the Secretary and the Department’s information technology program. I am honored to return to the service of our country and to our veterans. I am most aware and energized by the size and complexity of our task.
While I have been here for only a short period, I believe I can make several useful observations. First, and perhaps foremost, I have seen a level of commitment and dedication to the mission on the part of everyone I have encountered that is truly remarkable.
Second, my impression so far is that the Department of Veterans Affairs has made significant progress over the last three years in attaining the Secretary’s stated commitment to reform how “IT” gets done at the VA. However, much remains to be done.
Over the past two years, VA’s Office of Information and Technology has initiated a rigorous information technology process. This process includes a disciplined project management methodology and an information technology portfolio management system that have been recognized by the Office of Management and Budget. We are well underway with an enterprise architecture that aims to align the business with the information technology plans, goals and efforts. We are in the final phase of rebuilding our nationwide telecommunications infrastructure, and we are implementing aggressive cyber security and privacy programs to ensure the protection of our infrastructure from attack, both external and internal, and to ensure the privacy of our service peoples' personal information. - OIRA.
In parallel to building a safe, secure, and technically current infrastructure across the VA system, we are working diligently to improve both service delivery and our internal business practices. To improve the sharing of medical information between the Departments of Defense (DoD) and VA we have taken positive steps to develop data standards, as well as an interoperable health record. Communication and collaboration are key to our joint success in building a seamless veteran information environment.
Internally, regarding VETSNET, I would like, to reassure you, Mr. Chairman, that we are working hard to ensure that VETSNET remains on schedule. Development of the final components is complete and undergoing vigorous testing. VBA is scheduled to begin a live test deployment in April 2004 at the Lincoln, Nebraska, RO, and we are committed to having VETSNET fully deployed to all regional offices by December 2005.
In the financial business arena, we will continue to coordinate with the Office of Management on successfully implementing CoreFLS in order to provide VA with an integrated financial and logistics system. This system is critical to the successful, efficient delivery of service to our nation’s veterans and will allow the VA to effectively manage the resources entrusted to us. Without CoreFLS, VA will not be able to remove the financial and security material weaknesses that currently exist.
While there have been problems with the system and legitimate concerns raised over the selection of Bay Pines as the test site for this new integrated system, I believe that the system and the approach are sound and I fully support the Secretary’s order that we will not rollout this system to other sites until we have remedied all critical issues identified at Bay Pines.
Finally, I believe it is important to mention again, an area of great interest to me and to this Subcommittee, cyber security. This remains one of our top priorities. We are currently implementing a comprehensive security configuration and management program designed to provide optimum protection of VA’s infrastructure, from both outside and inside attacks. A comprehensive VA-wide cyber security program is vital to not only the security and privacy of our veterans, but also to our ability to provide the best service to our veterans.