Letter from the Executive in Charge
From the very day I embarked on this stewardship of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Information and Technology (OIT), I challenged myself and my leadership team to consider our position at VA, to consider the enormous gravity of exercising prudence on behalf of the Veteran and the taxpayer—to take a hard look at the value we were getting from our IT spend.
From that day on, we’ve continued to build on this organization’s transformation detailed in the previous two Years in Review, turning our attention in 2018 to IT modernization. This 2018 Calendar Year in Review details the remarkable progress our team has achieved toward enabling the exceptional customer service experience our Veterans deserve. While navigating continuously evolving technology and emerging cyber threats, OIT also provides IT support every day to the Nation’s second-largest Federal workforce, protection for VA’s critical IT infrastructure, and innovative tools that Veterans use to manage their health and benefits.
Just this past year, VA unveiled a new way for employees to receive swift IT support through a cloud-based IT Service Management Tool called YourIT Services. This platform also provides new tools to help quickly identify IT issues that could directly impact Veteran care or services, and then prioritizes resources to those issues for swift resolution. We’ve also leveraged Artificial Intelligence (AI) to further improve our customer service and help us identify issues and trends before they impact our employees and the customer service they in turn provide our Veterans.
More than simply improving our customer service, we also changed the way we did business. We embraced our core values of transparency, accountability, innovation, and teamwork and sought to create an example of responsible government stewardship and public service. We broke down siloes and brought IT organizations together to collaborate with our business partners and help drive technology solutions created with Veterans, not simply for Veterans.
Moving to the Cloud represents one example of how innovation at VA drives responsible stewardship. OIT recently moved a very large, complex application called Identity Access Management (IAM)—tools that protect and authenticate Veteran and employee information—from a 3rd party IBM data center to the secure VA Enterprise Cloud (Microsoft Azure). This “cloud-first” move alone is expected to lead to approximately $11M potential cost avoidance annually, promoting better stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
Additionally, VA’s multi-year effort beginning in 2017 to upgrade its network infrastructure and consolidate data centers to support this cloud-first strategy across the second largest network in the entire U.S. Federal Government has resulted in the consolidation of 78 data centers in Fiscal Year 2018*.
These measures contribute to further modernization-based cost avoidance from other VA efforts. Since the beginning of the calendar year 2018, OIT has realized $100 million in cost avoidance by implementing its fiduciary responsibilities outlined by the accountability and authority the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) extends to federal chief information officers.
VA’s IT organization is also working to manage and leverage data across VA so that if a Veteran makes an update in one place, such as a VA website or a health appointment, it’s immediately available across all of VA’s websites and platforms, reducing common frustrations voiced by Veterans in the past. But moving to the cloud and managing data are just a few pieces of the larger IT Modernization underway at VA. OIT is also improving VA’s cybersecurity, digitizing VA’s business processes, decommissioning legacy systems, and migrating many VA services to the cloud, actions that will promote flexibility and drive further cost savings at VA.
Finally, as VA begins transitioning from a legacy electronic health record (EHR) to a new, commercial EHR, this IT Modernization also extends VA an opportunity to rapidly scale health IT innovation across the entire organization as VA moves to a single, cloud-based instance of its EHR, compared to the more than 130 instances of VA’s current EHR.
EHR Modernization will finally deliver the interoperability and seamless exchange of information between the Department of Defense and VA. Our Veterans will have one health record, from the time they enter active duty, through the rest of their life journey.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to have led this organization over the past year, and I invite you to read on for more exciting details about what we’ve been up to in 2018. Thanks to the steadfast dedication of VA’s IT workforce—a majority of whom are Veterans themselves—during a time of constant technological change and transition, VA is well on its way to realizing its vision of a world-class IT organization that provides a seamless, unified Veteran experience.
Camilo J. Sandoval
Executive in Charge
Office of Information and Technology
*This letter has been updated to report the latest data center consolidation efforts