Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Opening Statement of Hon. Joe Donnelly, Ranking Democratic Member, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
We often criticize the VA for their inefficient and outdated IT systems. A perfect example of this was when the VA found themselves having to process education claim manually due to the legacy system being unable to process education claims after the passage of a modern education program. For this reason, I find it important and critical that the VA maintains and updated IT system that proves to be reliable and can be manipulated as new software is incorporated through the years ahead.
The VA has decided that using Open Source model will provide a better outcome, with lower risks and lower cost. Their cooperation with the DoD on using Open Source is encouraging, in part because this cooperation is essential, there is a critical need to develop and electronic health record system, and because DoD has relied on Open Source in the past. Although there are multiple concerns that both the majority and the minority might share, the VA has reassured us that Open Source provides several benefits. But along with those benefits, making sure that veteran’s personal information remains secure is critical.
I also understand that contract management and weaknesses have overshadowed VA’s efforts to keep up with the VA’s IT infrastructure. Cost overruns, contract weaknesses, and unmet project time frames are just a few examples of the implications that can occur if there are no firm requirements in contracts, such was the case with the Wi-Fi awarded contract to Catapult, Ltd.
What I am concerned about is making sure that first, the VA IT has an interoperable model in place; second, best practices should be in place from the private and public sector; and third, that new IT strategies have the best value for our veterans.
Finally, I encourage the VA to keep staff updated on your efforts.