GAO Recommends Additional VA Human Capital and System Development Practices

Published: September 22, 2016

Information TechnologyVA

The Department of Veterans Affairs is highly dependent on information technology to fulfill its mission of providing medical care, compensation, education and burial benefits to the country’s veterans. However in the recent past, VA has struggled with IT management challenges such as performance issues, schedule setbacks, and cost overruns.

In January 2016, VA’s CIO LaVerne Council, launched an effort to transform the Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) to be more “veteran-focused” and to emphasize transparency, accountability, innovation, and teamwork. This initiative has also improved VA IT management.

GAO’s study was commissioned by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Veterans Affairs to determine the extent of centralized IT management, effectiveness of IT human capital management, and the existence of key processes for effectively managing major system development and acquisition efforts.

To conduct its research, GAO interviewed key VA officials and reviewed VA’s processes and policies against industry best practices for human capital management and IT systems development and acquisition.  

GAO found that OI&T has taken steps to implement human capital management best practices, such as

  • Developing a human capital strategic plan that aligns with its strategic plans
  • Creating action plans for implementing human capital goals and objectives
  • Reviewing its workforce quarterly, identifying skill gaps, and implementing a training program

However, VA is not reviewing or tracking leadership retirements or future skill gaps on an annual basis. GAO recommended that the CIO take steps to do so.

GAO also found that VA’s processes for managing IT systems develop and acquisition generally reflected industry best practices, however there are gaps in key areas. GAO recommended that the CIO revise OI&T’s documented processes related to project planning, requirements management, risk management, project monitoring and control, project monitoring and control, processes and product quality assurance, and project scheduling.

VA generally agreed with GAO’s conclusions and concurred with GAO’s recommendations.