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Opening Statement of Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a Representative in Congress from the State of South Dakota

Thank you Chairman Filner and Ranking Member Buyer for holding today’s hearing to evaluate the VA’s reorganization of its information technology infrastructure and management. 

Considering the numerous hearings that this committee dedicated last year to investigating the VA’s information technology problems, it is only right that we take this opportunity to follow-up on the progress of VA’s reorganization efforts.  This committee, and Congress as a whole, have a responsibility to remain vigilant in its oversight role to ensure the VA continues to move forward in its pledge to protect the private information of our nation’s veterans.

I share the frustration of my colleagues regarding the repeated failures to change the VA’s information organizational structure and the recurring instances of lost personal information. 

I thank Mr. Howard and Mr. Claudio for testifying today.  I have heard good things about your commitment to providing a secure information technology environment.  In order for this committee to properly conduct its oversight responsibilities we must be able to engage in an open and honest discussion.  It is extremely valuable for the committee to hear from those of you on the front line working to bring down the institutional barriers of VA’s current IT organizational structure.

While the VA has taken important steps toward completing information technology realignment, many questions remain unanswered and many changes to the VA’s policies, regarding the handling of sensitive information, will need to be made. 

I hope that today’s hearing will shed some light on these unanswered questions and lead to better safeguarded information security systems at the VA. 

We must work to ensure that the personal information of our nation’s veterans is protected and these widely reported security incidents never happen again. 

Thank you again Mr. Chairman.  I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses.