THE HONORABLE ROBERT T. HOWARD
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR INFORMATION AND TECHNOLOGY DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS BEFORE THE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
February 13, 2008
Chairman Harry Mitchell and Ranking Member Ginny Brown-Waite, good afternoon. Thank you for your invitation to discuss the President's Fiscal Year ( FY) 2009 Information Technology ( IT) budget proposal for the Department of Veterans Affairs ( VA). As we look forward to the upcoming year, we remain focused on VA's primary mission-the health and well-being of our nation's veterans. To ensure that we succeed in our mission, it is imperative that we employ all of our resources, including information technology, in the most effective way possible.
Let me begin this afternoon by recapping the major aspects of the IT reorganization and highlights of our experience to date. Through FY 2006 to FY 2007, OI&T began the transition to a new organization the detailing of 5,010 IT personnel and combining them with the original staff of 519 personnel. And in FY 2008, OI&T has the budget authority to consolidate all IT development of 1,151 FTE, along with operations and maintenance personnel of 5,535 FTE for our total staffing level of 6,686.
We have been operating under this new organization for about a year and continue to learn a lot about what it takes to provide effective and efficient IT support to an organization the size and complexity of the VA. As we move forward, we will continue to build upon our successes; however, we remain aware that our work is far from complete. As a result of the clarity we have been able to bring to the management of IT through the consolidation, we are discovering activities that need to be improved and enhanced from an overall management stand point. This is especially true in the area of data security and infrastructure improvements. For example we have increased our emphasis on certification and accreditation and are developing better procedures for asset management. Progress is being made but, there is still much to be done in establishing the organization and providing the IT support that VA and veterans deserve.
Working with our new centralized organization has certainly been a challenge for all of us, but the other critical change we are dealing with is the new IT appropriation which was established in 2006. In that regard we continue to focus our efforts in structuring and funding the IT appropriation along programmatic lines-relating IT to the principal missions of the VA. Since this is a line item appropriation, prior planning is critically important and getting the funding right up front is essential.
As you are aware, VA is requesting $2.442 billion to support IT development, operations, and maintenance expenses including payroll for FY 2009, an 18.9 percent increase over the FY 2008 level. This request reflects the consolidation of VA IT into one appropriation, with certain exceptions such as non-payroll IT for credit reform programs and insurance benefits programs. In FY 2009, the majority of increases represent program priorities to enhance the support to veterans both directly and indirectly -especially in the area of medical care. The move toward a centralized IT Management System has been challenging, but it has also served to reinvigorate IT capability within VA. Placing all IT staffing, equipment, and budgetary resources under the VA Chief Information Officer ( CIO) has provided an objective capability with visibility over all IT activities across the Department. This capability will also provide for a more standardized approach to our critical developmental efforts. Of critical urgency is accelerating the design and implementation of electronic health records which meet the national health IT standards and are interoperable with the Department of Defense ( DoD), helping to streamline the benefits claims processing through improved IT support so claims may be adjudicated timely and efficiently, and ensuring portable IT equipment for benefit counselors traveling to DoD sites is encrypted and service members' privacy is protected.
The non-pay portion of the FY 2009 budget has been realigned from previous submissions to delineate veteran strategic issues into two major classifications - veteran facing IT systems and internal facing IT systems. This has been done to better link the appropriation to the mission of VA. Veteran facing IT systems enable support of VA programs for veterans, such as, providing medical care, delivering compensation benefits, providing pension benefits, enhancing education opportunities, delivering vocational rehabilitation and employment services, promoting homeownership, providing insurance service, and delivering burial service. Veteran facing program account for $1.295 billion of our request (The payroll portion of that budget is $729.2 million). Internal facing IT systems are those that provide the capability to work more effectively in managing IT resources - such as corporate management, financial resources management, asset management, human capital management, IT infrastructure, and Information Protection. Internal facing program budget totals $418 million.
These amounts reflect a sizable increase over FY 2008 which will obviously be very helpful in the improvement of IT support to VA. Over the past several years VA IT has had a fairly level budget, yet at the same time, the organizations we have to support, have been increasing in size; especially, in terms of facilities and people. And, as you well know, whenever you do that, you have to apply the necessary IT talent and tools to those activities. The increase has allowed us to provide the needed funding to accelerate such programs and at least keep most of them on track. Highlights are provided below.
Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture ( VistA) Application Development
VistA Application Development consists of the enhancement and development activities that support the movement of the existing MUMPS-based applications from the "as-is" into the "to-be" VistA architecture, new data structures, and desired capabilities ( MUMPS is an acronym for Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System.). Vista Application Development, in conjunction with VistA Foundations Modernization, will take the necessary steps toward building VA's next generation health care information system.
VistA Foundations Modernization
Another extremely important developmental program in the medical area is the modernization of VA's world class Electronic Health Record. For the past two and a half years, VA has been working hard to support the President's vision to have electronic health record capability for most Americans by 2014, and to implement the associated Executive Order. For example, VA and the Department of Defense ( DoD) have partnered on state-of-the-art software applications, including Bidirectional Health Information Exchange and Health Data Repository. These applications allow VA and DoD to exchange health data for veterans including injured service members as they move from DoD treatment facilities to VA health care facilities for continued treatment. This allows VA to care for all veterans, including seriously injured service members more efficiently, effectively and safely.
VistA Foundations Modernization is the capital investment that provides the architecture and foundational elements of Vista HealtheVet that support the delivery of the re-hosted/reengineered applications. In the FY 2009 Deployment Toolkit, Business Rules Engine and Workflow Engine will be delivered along with new testing services capabilities. Standardization activities in support of VA/ DoD sharing will continue as well as ongoing work to establish a common architecture to eliminate redundancies in coding, support common terminology sources between applications, and promote software and data use.
The goals of the Scheduling Replacement project are to improve access to care for veterans, decrease wait times for appointments, and increase provider availability. The first version will be placed in production at the VA Medical Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma during June 2008. Several activities will occur during FY2009 to prepare Scheduling for national deployment. Activities include improvements to the application identified by the initial installations, acquisition of the hardware and software needed to operate the application at the deployment sites, and the launching of a national training campaign. In FY 2011, VA anticipates the completion of the national rollout to all VA sites.
VistA Laboratory Information Systems (IS) Re-engineering
The Laboratory System Reengineering project will provide VA with a modernized Laboratory Information Management System that supports the business processes of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Services. In FY 2009 the system will undergo independent verification and validation and field tests. The FY 2009, increase in funding is to acquire 20-percent of the equipment needed for the deployment. National deployment will begin in FY 2010, and will be phased over five years.
Health Data Repository
he Health Data Repository ( HDR) is a repository of clinical information, normally residing on one or more independent computer systems, for use by clinicians and other personnel in support of patient centric care. Deliverables for FY 2008, include the addition of laboratory data, related to chemistry and hematology to HDR and CDR. Upon completion, this additional lab data will be exchanged with DoD on shared patients, as well as, all VA medical facilities. Deliverables also include the deployment of the new HDR National v2 that replaces two applications ( HDR National v1 and Clinical Data Service) and provides a more robust system. National rollout for the final HDR solution is projected to begin in FY 2009.
One of our real success stories is the application called "My HeatheVet" ( MHV). In FY 2007, MHV which is funded in FY09 at $18.4 million, stabilized its platform, increased its total number of prescriptions refilled online to over 2.8 million, and supported the increase in the number of MHV accounts to over 400,000. Nearly 20,000 veterans have already made the trip to VA medical centers for in-person authentication, a prerequisite for a veteran accessing their VistA information online.
In fiscal years 2008 and 2009, veterans will be able to request and store copies of key portions of their VA electronic health record in their MHV personal e VAult, along with their self-entered health information and health assessments. Veterans will be able to record medical events, medications, over the counter medications and herbals, and tests. They will also be able to track vitals and health readings (e.g., blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, and pain level) and graph results, alongside any readings or lab test results from VA care. Veterans can also keep health journals (e.g., activity and food journals) and record health histories (family, self and military health histories), view upcoming appointments, get health reminders, and benefit from increasing mental health information and tools. MHV will stand up an architecture, that is ready to support the continued increase of veterans seeking the 24/7 access to VA information and services from anywhere, and veterans will also benefit from better communications and information sharing with their health care providers.
The pharmacy suite of applications is undergoing modernization to improve service and safety to veterans and to better support the current and future VA business needs. The project scope is to replace current pharmacy software modules with new technology through, reengineering, new development, and purchase of commercial products. Plans are to deploy enhanced order checks in FY 2009, which will improve patient safety standards by reducing adverse drug events by 50-percent, with enhanced item management functionality to follow.
Enrollment System Redesign, scheduled for deployment in June 2008, will replace Enrollment's Health Eligibility Center Legacy system. The first in a series of enhancements will produce a workflow component to create, assign, view, track and complete work items. It also provides for changes to VistA in order to support the technology and business changes that will occur with the implementation of Enrollment System Redesign. The capabilities that are the focus in FY 2009 are the introduction of self-service functions to reduce application processing time, access of DoD military service data and existing benefits claim information to place the eligibility burden of proof on VA rather than the veteran, and productivity improvements in the area of veteran financial assessments and income verification.
As we continue our modernization efforts, we must maintain our current legacy system-called VistA. This system will need to remain operational for the foreseeable future as new applications are developed and implemented. This approach will mitigate transition and migration risks associated with the move to the new architecture. Our budget provides $99 million in 2009 in this account.
Information and technology investments over the past several years and those planned for the future will enable new technologies to be used to facilitate processing of veterans claims and for providing the vast number of benefits to veterans and their families. The majority of development in new technology includes the enhancement of the compensation components of VETSNET, development of the Virtual VA imaging solution for compensation and pension, and operation of the program integrity and data management program. The Benefits Delivery Network ( BDN) will continue to be sustained until all programs, utilizing its shared components, are replaced. The retirement for the BDN platform is projected in early 2012. Highlights of the Veteran Facing Benefits programs are provided below.
VETSNET is the replacement system for Compensation and Pension functions of the legacy Benefits Delivery Network ( BDN). It is a custom built suite of applications designed to support end-to-end Compensation and Pension claims processing, currently supporting C&P claims processing operations nationwide. A key benefit of VETSNET is the migration of compensation and pension benefit payments to a modernized, stable platform. Over 42 million compensation and pension payments are made annually from BDN, which was designed and built in the late 1960s. Legacy record conversions, necessary for the payment of existing and compensation and pension beneficiaries, have begun and will be completed by July 2009 - a major milestone for VA. Thus far in fiscal year '08, over 96 percent of new compensation claims have been completed in VETSNET, versus 5 percent in fiscal year 2006. As of the end of January 2008, over 863,000 are receiving their monthly compensation payments via VETSNET. This includes over 613,000 records converted from the BDN in FY 06 and FY 07. Over one billion dollars in C&P benefit payments have been made through VETSNET during FY 08.
Virtual VA is web-based document and electronic claims-folder repository, and is the cornerstone of our Paperless Delivery of Veterans Benefits initiative. Planned FY 2008 activities include maintenance of the existing application functionality and planning for migration to a centralized infrastructure. Expansion of existing pilot efforts in support of compensation and pension claims processing will also be targeted for FY 2008, along with a development of a comprehensive strategy for full development of the Paperless initiative. Significant execution of the comprehensive plan will carry into FY 09, and will include integration with the C&P claims processing system, VETSNET.
IT Support for Education, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, Housing, and Insurance
Education opportunities, rehabilitation and employment services, life insurance, and the housing program are provided to eligible veterans and their dependents. These programs rely on supporting IT systems to ensure benefits and services are provided timely and consistently and support staff engaged in ensuring delivery of checks, electronic transfers and other related materials are as routine as clockwork. BDN supports compensation and pension, as well as education and vocational rehabilitation and employment.
The Education Program IT Support development costs represent 2.2 percent of the total development costs for veteran facing IT systems. During FY 2009, new technology efforts will beginning the development of a rules based infrastructure, which when completed, will facilitate the adjudication of Chapters 30, 32, 35, 1606, and 1607 benefits. At full completion, it is planned that VA will automatically process the majority of claims, received electronically, by applying benefit-specific business rules and issuing payment for all claims.
Vocational Rehabilitation Program IT Support development costs represent less than 1.0 percent of the total development costs for veteran facing IT systems. C-WINRS is VR&E's system of workflow management, control, and reporting. At full implementation, C-WINRS will replace BDN in Chapter 31 claims processing. Beneficiary payments of subsistence allowance will be completed via interface with the VETSNET Finance and Accounting System ( FAS). Targeted activities for FY 09 include completion of functional requirements and technical design.
Information Architecture and Legacy Document Project for Housing Program (funded through credit reform reimbursement from the Housing program) will establish online information architecture for Loan Guaranty. This project will convert critical microfiche and hand-copy documents into an electronic format with indexing capabilities. These documents would then be made available to authorized VA staff via current Loan Guaranty systems. The project will also enable Loan Guaranty to use workflow management by providing online collaboration and review capability within a paperless environment.
Internal facing IT systems link to specific management categories - corporate management, financial resources management, asset management, human capital management, IT infrastructure, cyber security, privacy, and E-Gov. VA is requesting $418 million in FY 2009. Two significant investments are in the categories of human capital management and financial resources management to replace existing systems with new technologies. The Human Resources Information System is an OMB/OPM managed project, and the Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise system addresses VA's long standing Federal Financial Management Integrity Act material weakness -- lack of a VA-wide integrated financial management system.
Internal facing IT development and operational systems are those that will improve effectiveness and efficiency in managing its resources. As VA continues to meet challenges to enhance the delivery of timely, high quality services to veterans and their beneficiaries, internal system development requirements continue to grow. Operation and maintenance consists of those functions that ensure the IT infrastructure and business-critical applications have the availability, performance, adaptability, and scalability required to support business needs. Highlights are provided below.
Human Capital Management Programs
VA is requesting $92.6 million for IT human capital management programs in FY 2009, an increase of $32.8 million or 54.9 percent increase. As employees are one of VA's most important assets, investments in human resources systems will help VA meet the challenges of managing over 240,000 employees. These systems are focused on ensuring VA health care provider credentials are current and benefit claims specialists receive the latest training in an ever improving benefits delivery system. These systems also will help VA manage its mature workforce with a greater array of succession planning tools. Finally, VA will update its payroll system to a more modern, secure data information system.
Financial Resources Management Programs
VA is requesting $65.3 million in FY 2009 for IT financial systems, an increase of $14.8 million or 29 percent. These resources will enable the overall Department to better manage the $93 billion in Federal resources to deliver services to the Nation's veterans. A critical part of this program is the Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise ( FLITE) initiative.
Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise
Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise ( FLITE) is a multi-year initiative to replace the existing financial and logistics systems with integrated, enterprise-level systems. The two primary components are the Integrated Financial Accounting System (I FAS) and Strategic Asset Management (SAM) project. FLITE implementation has three primary objectives: (1) to effectively integrate and standardize financial/logistical data and processes across all VA offices; (2) to provide management with access to timely and accurate financial, logistics, budget, asset and related information on VA-wide operations as well as on specific programs and projects; and (3) to establish an advanced technology environment which provides VA with the greatest capability and an extended life cycle.
In FY 2007, VA completed the prerequisite planning, which included developing the FLITE governance framework and baseline cost estimates, documenting requirements, establishing an acquisition strategy, determining the COTS solution for SAM and I FAS, and conducting a stakeholder analysis and communications needs assessment as well as other project management strategies. In FY 2008, VA will award individual implementation/integration contracts for SAM and I FAS. The pilot test for SAM will be deployed at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center in FY 2008, and the pilot preparation for I FAS will start in FY 2008. FY 2009 will include deployment of additional beta sites for SAM and pilot testing for I FAS. The budget increase from FY 2008 to FY 2009 accounts for development and testing activities.
VA is thoroughly examining every aspect of our information protection program to ensure that sensitive information, primarily Personally Identifiable Information and Personal Health Information, is neither mismanaged nor used for any unauthorized purpose. To do this we have requested $93M in FY09 to meet this goal. This request can be broken into 2 major categories (as discussed below) - support for our Enterprise Cyber Security Program and support for the Personal Identification Verification ( PIV) program. Highlights are provided below.
Enterprise Cyber Security Programs
An overarching program providing focus to all activity related to data security, the Data Security - Assessment and Strengthening of Controls ( DS-ASC) program includes several hundred specific actions all oriented toward improving the position of VA in the area of information protection. To date, approximately 40 percent of the original DS-ASC items have been completed with the approval of VA Handbook 6500. This handbook is the primary cyber security procedural document for the Department. Recently, DS-ASC focused on the VA Office of Inspector General and GAO recommendations reported to the Congress. By reorganizing the DS-ASC around these recommendations, VA is confident it will reach the Gold Standard for Data Security and satisfy each recommendation within the next three years.
Through the Enterprise Cyber Security Program ( ECSP) VA formulates and oversees the implementation of the Department-wide security program. ECSP provides a continuous cycle of risk assessment, modification of policies and procedures to reflect changes in the risk environment, identification of mitigating security controls, and the testing of those controls. ECSP is comprised of both management and technical components.
The management components establish VA IT security policies and procedures; oversee Department-wide risk management, certification and accreditation, and Federal Information Security Management Act reporting and compliance programs; update the Department IT security program plan; provide for credit monitoring and fraud detection services; sponsor the Department's security awareness training, role based training for information security officers ISOs, and VA's annual information security conference; and provides procurement, budgeting, personnel, and capital planning support for the investment. Field Security Operations and Information Security Officer Support Service (Field Ops) provide oversight for the facility-based ISOs. It also includes an incident response and risk management capability to monitor, respond, and report on data breach and other information security incidents. The incident response team has developed enterprise identity strategic and implementation plans for fiscal years 2008 through 2010.
Technical components include the Critical Infrastructure Protection Program, which directs the operation of the Network and Security Operations Center, is responsible for providing the centralized incident response and recovery capability as well as other enterprise network and security services, such as, firewall management; intrusion detection and prevention monitoring; Domain Naming System management; content filtering; patch management; antivirus program; and enhanced 24x7x365 monitoring of core VA infrastructure. The continued deployment of the enterprise host-based intrusion prevention, anti-spyware, and anti-spam solutions are ongoing as well as initiatives to implement an e-Discovery technology and anomaly detection services within VA's enterprise architecture to further enhance our security posture and network services availability.
The information protection program is responsible for reporting on the deployment of technical controls that bring VA in compliance with Federal regulations and VA policy. The technical controls protect information in transit and in storage. Such technical controls include encryption of laptops, secure network transmissions, mobile device security, remote access security, secure emails and documents, tape encryption, and scanning of emails being transmitted through VA's Internet gateways for social security numbers.
Personal Identification Verification ( PIV) program
This initiative replaces VA's Authentication and Authorization Infrastructure Project with a system that directly addresses Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 and FIPS 201 with the implementation of processes and procedures required to issue PIV cards. PIV includes five logical components that support PIV card issuance and the business process and procedures necessary to perform data capture, data management, identity proofing, identity management, access management, logical access control, physical access control, authorization, and authentication surrounding the PIV credential. PIV is a VA enterprise system that will be interoperable across the Federal Government. Coordination with other agencies facilitates knowledge sharing between VA and other Federal departments and agencies. In FY 2009 VA will deploy the PIV registrar and issuer workstations to 113 of 225 field locations and issue 50 percent of the cards to employees.
Before closing, I would like to provide an overview of the funds requested for IT Infrastructure supporting both Veteran Facing IT systems and Internal Facing IT systems. VA's extensive and complex IT infrastructure is the foundation for the operation of information systems in VA. IT systems are critical for the delivery of veterans' services, from the delivery of health care using the EHR to timely delivery of veterans' benefits claims and burial programs, through implementation and on-going management of a wide array of technical and administrative support systems. VA is requesting $800 million and an increase of $140.2 million over FY 2008 operations. This significant investment is needed to begin rebuilding the VA IT Infrastructure to one that will provide effective and timely delivery of health care, benefits, and burial services to the Nation's veterans and their dependents. To keep up with growing data, network capacity, information sharing (e.g., DoD and business partners), security and privacy, and technical requirements created by innovative IT solutions, the VA IT infrastructure must be refreshed and modernized.
In FY 2007, the many different infrastructure accounts were combined to form the IT infrastructure activity now centrally managed by the CIO. This centralization allows VA to better manage computer systems, VA data networks, and voice services to better deliver veteran benefits with adequate security and continue to improve cost-effectiveness. Without proper operation and maintenance of the IT infrastructure (including planning and budgeting) and implementation of new technologies, the delivery of essential services and business operations of this or any other modern governmental function would literally halt in days and the health, lives, and well being of veterans would be jeopardized.
Increased staffing and activation of new VA facilities comes with associated IT requirements and assets. Every new person hired requires IT tools, such as, a desktop computer, mobile device, laptop, printer, etc. For example, VA projects by FY 2009 numerous facility activations, including 51 new community based outpatient clinics. By their nature, community based outpatient clinics are not generally in close proximity to a medical center, and are quite often in rural areas, creating asset management challenges. Additionally, there are currently 209 readjustment counseling vet centers with more projected to be opened during fiscal years 2008. Vet centers are typically small in staff size and are not located on VA property. In serving veterans, both of these facility types require reliable IT equipment that embodies information assurance and data standardization.
In support of the veteran facing IT systems, IT infrastructure ensures the underlying platforms and services function properly in support of the wide variety of veteran facing applications supporting mechanism to ensure funding for. By definition, the infrastructure, which is comprised of application licenses, network and computing support, and voice, data and video infrastructure, is key to effective program delivery. It provides for the hardware and communication lines and systems that allow over 240,000 VA employees to deliver health care, benefits delivery, and memorial services to a grateful Nation's veterans. IT infrastructure support for veteran facing IT systems for FY 2009 is $659.04 million. The breakout of this support across the major service areas at the VA is as follows:
VA IT infrastructure serves the entire range of business functions including primary missions, handling of Congressional and other correspondence, financial operations, interaction with veterans service organizations and other agencies including DoD health care systems, data exchange with business partners, Continuity of Operations and continuity of business, radio frequency spectrum management; and implementation infrastructure for new and enhanced business applications.
IT infrastructure programs and activities for FY 2009 include work as a major participant in the GSA FTS program; transition of current long distance voice and data circuits from the FTS2001 contract to the new Network contract; implementing compliance with the Internet Protocol version 6 mandate by OMB; continuing to strengthen VA Gold Standard for Data Security; operation of a multi-carrier backbone wide area network; exploration of new and more efficient network technologies, including Internet 2, voice over IP, and unified communications; and continued standardization of the infrastructure architecture from desktop to wide area network. Infrastructure programs require an increase to meet service projections for enhancing patient care services, additional care for returning war veterans, teleradiology and remote medical services, fund the phased replacement of PCs across VA, and provide greater network bandwidth for facilitating communications. IT infrastructure funding is essential to protect IT resources and strengthen data security for keeping sensitive veteran and employee data safe, secure, and confidential.
Telecommunications services are an integral and fundamental component of VA. While often taken for granted, these technology dependencies and interdependencies are essential to business functions and service providers. Without these services, essentially utilities, VA modern health care and benefit functions would not be possible and would be reduced to paper, other physical media (e.g., x-ray films), and physical mail or courier delivery. These are services that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In closing, I want to assure you that VA IT is committed to providing effective and efficient support to veterans and in turn to the VA community-at-large. We have made progress over this past year and have experienced problems as well - so much more remains to be done. I appreciate having this opportunity to discuss this with you and will gladly respond to your questions.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - 810 Vermont Avenue, NW - Washington, DC 20420
Reviewed/Updated Date: November 10, 2009