Chairman Takano Delivers Opening Remarks before Hearing Assessing Key IT Solution Implementation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks before the full committee oversight hearing entitled “MISSION Critical: Assessing the Technology to Support Community Care.” Below is a link to the video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared:
Good afternoon. I call this hearing to order.
Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is gathered to assess the implementation status of the Community Care requirements under the MISSION Act, including the technology that will support the program.
The impetus for this hearing is a report prepared by the U.S. Digital Service at the request of Dr. Melissa Glynn, of the Office of Enterprise Integration.
Before we discuss the report, I want to establish a few items for the record.
First, I had hoped that the U.S. Digital Service would be here today to discuss both the work it is doing at VA in general, and specifically its work on this report.
I want to be clear that I believe USDS is doing good work at VA, and in other federal agencies. USDS is filled with very talented individuals who have heard the call of public service and are attempting to help fix very challenging technology problems.
Although the Administrator of USDS was invited, it appears that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had a role in Mr. Cutts, or his staff , not being here today. I’m disappointed in this result, and I urge OMB to reconsider whether its bureaucratic internal processes are actually serving the government and the taxpayer well. If Congress is prevented from conducting legitimate oversight because of unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles then it is a real problem.
I hope we will have an opportunity to hear from USDS at a future hearing and to learn more about the work the digital services team is doing at VA.
Second, I understand that there are sensitivities involved in USDS’s role in advising agencies on technology. We want agency staff to speak freely to USDS and for USDS to be able to provide unvarnished advice because we want agencies to succeed at their technology projects. We want agencies to have the room to fix known problems before it endangers an entire program.
The Committee understands that this report was not meant for the public, but it is now in the open. And as the Committee responsible for overseeing the implementation of one of the most significant pieces of veterans legislation, we are compelled to ask questions about it. That is what brings us here today.
Third, I want to be clear that this is a fact-finding hearing. We have invited VA leadership here in order to exchange information and to have a robust discussion about that state of implementation. I want you to understand, Dr. Stone, Dr. Glynn, and Mr. Gfrerer, that I want to have an open and honest conversation, and IF there are things that the Committee needs to know about – such as resources, implementation timelines, or the real state of the technology – this is the time to share that information.
We want transparency. Veterans expect and deserve transparency.
This is because when we talk about technology at VA we are talking about more than technology. Information systems at VA support the very backbone of the mission of VA. These are systems that directly impact veterans’ lives, their health, and their ability to access the benefits they have earned.
The MISSION Act is a big mandate and we need to get it right. If the technology experts say that VA should cease development on the Decision Support Tool and for VA to rethink its approach to implementation we want to understand those recommendations and what VA is doing about them.
If a veteran-centric vision is not guiding this implementation then we need to figure out what needs to change.
Our veterans deserve nothing less.
I thank the witnesses for being here and I look forward to their testimony.
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