This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-05-1017T entitled 'Veterans Affairs: The Critical Role of the Chief Information Officer Position in Effective Information Technology Management' which was released on September 14, 2005. This text file was formatted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part of a longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this document to Webmaster@gao.gov. This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately. United States Government Accountability Office: GAO: Testimony before the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives: For Release on Delivery: Expected at 10:00 a.m. EDT September 14, 2005: Veterans Affairs: The Critical Role of the Chief Information Officer Position in Effective Information Technology Management: Statement of Linda D. Koontz: Director, Information Management Issues: GAO-05-1017T: GAO Highlights: Highlights of GAO-05-1017T, a testimony before the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives Why GAO Did This Study: In carrying out VA’s mission of serving the nation’s veterans and their dependents, the agency relies extensively on information technology (IT), for which it is requesting about $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2006. VA’s vision is to integrate its IT resources and streamline interactions with customers, so that it can provide services and information to veterans more quickly and effectively. Fully exploiting the potential of IT to improve performance is a challenging goal for VA, as it is throughout government. The Clinger- Cohen Act of 1996 addressed this challenge by, among other things, establishing the position of chief information officer (CIO) to serve as the focal point for information and technology management within departments and agencies. The Committee requested that GAO discuss the role of CIOs in the federal government, as well as provide a historical perspective on the roles and responsibilities of VA’s CIO. In developing this testimony, GAO relied on its previous work at VA as well as on the CIO role across government, including a 2004 review of CIOs at major departments and agencies. What GAO Found: CIOs play a critical role in managing information and technology within federal agencies. According to GAO’s 2004 review, CIOs generally held wide responsibilities and reported to their agency heads or other top level managers. In general, CIOs reported that they were responsible for key information and technology management areas; for example, all the CIOs were responsible for five key areas (capital planning and investment management, enterprise architecture, information security, strategic planning for information technology and information resource management, and information technology workforce planning). However, in carrying out their responsibilities, the tenure of federal CIOs was often less than the length of time that some experts consider necessary for them to be effective and implement changes: the median tenure was about 2 years, and the most common response regarding time required to be effective was 3 to 5 years. In contrast, CIOs were generally helped in carrying out their responsibilities by the background and experience they brought to the job: most had background in information technology (IT) or related fields, and many also had business knowledge related to their agencies. Other factors that help CIOs meet their responsibilities include (1) being supported by senior executives who recognize the importance to their missions of IT and an effective CIO; (2) playing an influential role in applying IT to business needs; and (3) being able to structure their organizations appropriately. At the same time, CIOs cited several challenges, of which the two most frequently mentioned were implementing effective IT management and obtaining sufficient and relevant resources. Over time, the CIO position at VA, as well as information and technology management as a whole, has received increased attention at the department. After several years with CIOs whose primary duty was not information and technology management or who were serving in an acting capacity, the department appointed a full-time permanent CIO in August 2001. In 2002, the department proposed further strengthening the position and centralizing IT management, recognizing that aspects of its computing environment were particularly challenging and required substantial management attention. In particular, the department’s information systems and services were highly decentralized, and a large proportion of the department’s IT budget was controlled by the VA’s administrations and staff offices. To address these challenges, the Secretary issued a memo in 2002 announcing that IT functions, programs, and funding would be centralized under the department-level CIO. This realignment held promise for improving accountability and enabling the department to accomplish its mission. The additional oversight afforded the CIO could have a significant impact on the department’s ability to more effectively account for and manage its IT spending. www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-1017T. To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on the link above. For more information, contact Linda Koontz at (202) 512- 6240 or email@example.com. [End of section] Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: Thank you for inviting us to take part in your discussion of the information technology organization at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). In carrying out its mission of serving our nation's veterans, the department relies heavily on information technology, for which it is requesting about $2.1 billion in funding for fiscal year 2006. The CIO will play a vital role in ensuring that this money is well spent and that information technology is managed effectively. As we have previously reported, an effective CIO can make a significant difference in building the institutional capacity that is needed to improve an agency's ability to manage information and technology and thus enhance program performance. At your request, we will discuss the role of CIOs in the federal government, as well as providing a historical perspective on the roles and responsibilities of VA's CIO. In developing this testimony, we reviewed our previous work in this area. All work covered in this testimony was performed in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards. Results in Brief: Since the Clinger-Cohen act established the CIO position in 1996, federal CIOs have played a central role in managing information and technology within federal agencies. According to CIOs at major departments and agencies, they generally held wide responsibilities and reported to their agency heads or other top level managers.[Footnote 1] In general, CIOs reported that they were responsible for key information and technology management areas; for example, all the CIOs were responsible for five key areas (capital planning and investment management, enterprise architecture, information security, strategic planning for information technology and information resource management, and information technology workforce planning). In carrying out these responsibilities, the tenure of federal CIOs was often less than the length of time that some experts consider necessary for them to be effective and implement changes: the median tenure was about 2 years, and the most common response regarding time required to be effective was 3 to 5 years. In contrast, CIOs were generally helped in carrying out their responsibilities by the background and experience they brought to the job. Although their background was varied, most had background in information technology (IT) or related fields, many having previously served as CIOs; many also had business knowledge related to their agencies, having previously either worked at the agency or in an area related to its mission. Other factors that help CIOs meet their responsibilities effectively are described in guidance[Footnote 2] that we have issued; key among these are (1) being supported by senior executives who recognize the importance to their missions of IT and an effective CIO; (2) playing an influential role in applying IT to business needs; and (3) being able to structure their organizations appropriately. At the same time, CIOs cited several challenges, of which the two most frequently mentioned were implementing effective IT management and obtaining sufficient and relevant resources. Over time, VA has devoted increased attention to the CIO position and to IT management. After going for 2½ years after the passage of the Clinger-Cohen Act without a CIO, followed by 2 years with an executive whose time was divided among CIO and other major duties, and then 1 year with an acting CIO, the department appointed a full-time permanent CIO in August 2001. Since then, the department proposed further strengthening the position and centralizing IT management, recognizing that aspects of its computing environment were particularly challenging and required substantial management attention. In particular, the department's information systems and services were highly decentralized, and a large proportion of the department's IT budget was controlled by the VA's administrations and staff offices. To address these challenges, the Secretary issued a memo in 2002 announcing that IT functions, programs, and funding would be centralized under the department-level CIO. In our view, this realignment held promise for improving IT accountability and enabling the department to accomplish its mission. The additional oversight afforded the CIO could have a significant impact on the department's ability to more effectively account for and manage its approximately $2.1 billion in planned IT spending. Background: VA comprises three major components: the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and the National Cemetery Administration (NCA).[Footnote 3] VA's mission is summed up in its mission statement, a quotation from Abraham Lincoln: "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan." VA carries out this mission by providing benefits and other services to veterans and dependents. The department's vision is to be a more customer-focused organization, functioning as "One VA." This vision stemmed from the recognition that veterans think of VA as a single entity, but often encountered a confusing, bureaucratic maze of uncoordinated programs that put them through repetitive and frustrating administrative procedures and delays. The "One VA" vision is to create versatile new ways for veterans to obtain services and information by streamlining interactions with customers and integrating IT resources to enable VA employees to help customers more quickly and effectively. This vision will require modifying or replacing separate information systems with integrated systems using common standards to share information across VA programs and with external partner organizations, such as the Department of Defense. Accordingly, effective management of its IT programs is vital to VA's successful achievement of its vision and mission. Table 1 shows a breakdown of VA's approximately $2.1 billion IT budget request for fiscal year 2006. Of the total, VHA accounted for approximately $1.8 billion, VBA approximately $150 million, and the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) approximately $11 million. The remaining $84 million was allocated to the department level. Table 1: Breakdown of VA's Fiscal Year 2006 Information Technology Budget Request (in millions): Organization: VHA; Request: $1835; Request: 88%. Organization: VBA; Request: $150; Request: 7%. Organization: NCA; Request: $11; Request: <1%. Organization: Department; Request: $84; Request: 4%. Total; Request: $2080. Source: GAO analysis of VA data. [End of table] CIO Plays Major Role in IT Management: The Congress has long recognized that IT has the potential to enable federal agencies to accomplish their missions more quickly, effectively, and economically. However, fully exploiting this potential presents challenges to agencies. Despite substantial IT investments, the federal government's management of information resources has produced mixed results. One of the ways in which the Congress has addressed this issue was to establish the CIO position; an agency's CIO serves as the focal point for information and technology management within an agency. Legislative Evolution of Agency CIO Role: For more than 20 years, federal law has structured the management of IT and information-related activities under the umbrella of information resources management (IRM).[Footnote 4] The IRM approach was first enacted into law in the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980.[Footnote 5] The intention of the Congress was to provide for a coordinated approach to managing federal agencies' information resources, addressing the entire information life cycle, from collection through disposition, with the ultimate goal of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government while reducing the "paperwork burden" on the public.[Footnote 6] The 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act centralized governmentwide IRM responsibilities in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), giving OMB specific policy-setting and oversight duties regarding individual IRM areas, such as records management, privacy, and the acquisition and use of IT.[Footnote 7] Agencies were given responsibility for carrying out their IRM activities in an efficient, effective, and economical manner in compliance with OMB policies and guidelines. The law also required that each agency head designate a senior official, reporting directly to the agency head, to carry out the agency's responsibilities under the law. In 1996, the Clinger-Cohen Act established the position of agency CIO by giving this title to the "senior IRM official" mentioned in the Paperwork Reduction Act and specifying additional responsibilities for this position.[Footnote 8] Among these responsibilities, the Clinger- Cohen act required that the CIOs in the 24 major departments and agencies[Footnote 9] have IRM as their "primary duty."[Footnote 10] The view of the Congress as reflected in current law is thus that CIOs should play a key leadership role in ensuring that agencies manage their information functions in a coordinated and integrated fashion in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs and operations. CIO Responsibilities and Reporting Relationships: Besides their statutory responsibilities, CIOs have other responsibilities that can contribute significantly to the successful implementation of information systems and processes. In July 2004, we interviewed 27 CIOs at major agencies[Footnote 11] on their roles, responsibilities, and challenges, among other things. For this report, we identified major areas of CIO responsibilities that were either statutory requirements or critical to effective information and technology management.[Footnote 12] Altogether, we identified the 13 areas shown in table 2. Table 2: Major Areas of CIO Responsibility: Area of responsibility: IT/IRM strategic planning; Description: Performing strategic planning for all information and information technology management functions; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(b)(2). Area of responsibility: IT capital planning and investment management; Description: Planning and management of IT capital investments; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(h), 40 U.S.C. 11312 & 11313. Area of responsibility: Information security; Description: Ensuring agency compliance with the requirement to protect information and systems; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(g) and 3544(a)(3). Area of responsibility: IT/IRM human capital; Description: Helping agency meet IT/IRM workforce needs; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(b), 40 U.S.C. 11315(c). Area of responsibility: Information collection/paperwork reduction; Description: Reviewing agency information collection proposals to maximize the utility and minimize public paperwork burden; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(c). Area of responsibility: Information dissemination; Description: Ensuring that information dissemination activities meet policy goals such as timely and equitable public access to information; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(d). Area of responsibility: Records management; Description: Ensuring that agency implements and enforces records management policies and procedures under the Federal Records Act; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(f). Area of responsibility: Privacy; Description: Ensuring agency compliance with the Privacy Act and related laws; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(g). Area of responsibility: Statistical policy and coordination; Description: Performing statistical policy and coordination functions, including ensuring the relevance, accuracy, and timeliness of information collected or created for statistical purposes; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(e). Area of responsibility: Information disclosure; Description: Ensuring appropriate information access under the Freedom of Information Act; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(g). Area of responsibility: Enterprise architecture[A]; Description: Developing and maintaining the enterprise architecture defining the agency's mission and the information and IT needed to perform it; Applicable laws: OMB guidance. Area of responsibility: Systems acquisition, development, and integration[A]; Description: Controlling the acquisition, development, and integration of IT systems; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(h)(5), 40 U.S.C. 11312. Area of responsibility: E-government initiatives[A]; Description: Supporting initiatives to use IT to improve government services to the public and internal operations; Applicable laws: 44 U.S.C. 3506(h)(3), E-Government Act of 2002, other laws and guidance. Source: GAO analysis. [A] The last three areas of responsibility--enterprise architecture; systems acquisition, development, and integration; and e-government initiatives--are not assigned to CIOs by statute; they are assigned to the agency heads by law or guidance. However, in virtually all agencies, the agency heads have delegated these areas of responsibility to their CIOs. [End of table] According to our report, CIOs were generally responsible for the key information and technology management areas shown in the table, although not all CIOs were completely responsible for all areas.[Footnote 13] For example: * All the CIOs were responsible for five areas (capital planning and investment management, enterprise architecture, information security, IT/IRM strategic planning, and IT workforce planning). * More than half had responsibility for six additional areas (systems acquisition, major e-government initiatives, information collection/paperwork reduction, records management, information dissemination, and privacy). * Fewer than half were responsible for two areas (information disclosure and statistics). It was common for CIOs to share responsibility for certain functions, and in some cases responsibilities were assigned to other offices. For example, systems acquisition responsibility could be shared among the CIO and other officials, such as a procurement executive or program executive; disclosure could be assigned to general counsel and public affairs, while statistical policy could be assigned to offices that deal with the agency's data analysis.[Footnote 14] Nevertheless, even for areas of responsibility that were not assigned to CIOs, agency CIOs generally reported that they contributed to the successful execution of the agency's overall responsibilities in that area. In carrying out their responsibilities, CIOs generally reported to their agency heads. The Paperwork Reduction Act--as well as our guidance[Footnote 15]--generally calls for CIOs to report to their agency heads,[Footnote 16] forging relationships that ensure high visibility and support for far-reaching information management initiatives. For 19 of the agencies in our review, the CIOs stated that they had this reporting relationship. In the other 8 agencies, the CIOs stated that they reported instead to another senior official, such as a deputy secretary, under secretary, or assistant secretary. In addition, 8 of the 19 CIOs who said they had a direct reporting relationship with the agency head noted that they also reported to another senior executive, usually the deputy secretary or under secretary for management, on an operational basis. According to members of our Executive Council on Information Management and Technology,[Footnote 17] what is most critical is for the CIO to report to a top level official. Tenure and Backgrounds of CIOs: Federal CIOs often remained in their positions for less than the length of time that some experts consider necessary for them to be effective and implement changes. At the major departments and agencies included in our review, the median time in the position of permanent CIOs whose time in office had been completed was about 23 months.[Footnote 18] For career CIOs, the median was 32 months; the median for political appointees was 19 months. To the question of how long a CIO needed to stay in office to be effective, the most common response of the CIOs (and former agency IT executives whom we consulted) was 3 to 5 years. Between February 10, l996, and March 1, 2004, only about 35 percent of the permanent CIOs who had completed their time in office reportedly had stayed in office for a minimum of 3 years. The gap between actual time in office and the time needed to be effective is consistent with the view of many agency CIOs that the turnover rate was high, and that this rate was influenced by the political environment, the pay differentials between the public and private sectors, and the challenges that CIOs face. In contrast, the CIOs interviewed for our report were generally helped in carrying out their responsibilities by the background and experience they brought to the job. The background of the CIOs varied in that they had previously worked in the government, the private sector, or academia, and they had a mix of technical and management experience. However, virtually all had work experience or educational backgrounds in IT or IT-related fields; 12 agency CIOs had previously served in a CIO or deputy CIO capacity. Moreover, most of the them had business knowledge related to their agencies because they had previously worked at the agency or had worked in an area related to the agency's mission. Success Factors and Challenges of CIOs: To allow CIOs to serve effectively in the key leadership role envisioned by the Congress, federal agencies must use the full potential of CIOs as information and technology management leaders and active participants in the development of the agency's strategic plans and policies. The CIOs, in turn, must meet the challenges of building credible organizations and developing and organizing information and technology management capabilities to meet mission needs. In February 2001, we issued guidance[Footnote 19] on the effective use of CIOs, which describes the following three factors as key contributors to CIO success: * Supportive senior executives embrace the central role of technology in accomplishing mission objectives and include the CIO as a full participant in senior executive decision making. * Effective CIOs have legitimate and influential roles in leading top managers to apply IT to business problems and needs. Placement of the position at an executive management level in the organization is important, but in addition, effective CIOs earn credibility and produce results by establishing effective working relationships with business unit heads. * Successful CIOs structure their organizations in ways that reflect a clear understanding of business and mission needs. Along with knowledge of business processes, market trends, internal legacy structures, and available IT skills, this understanding is necessary to ensure that the CIO's office is aligned to best serve agency needs. The CIO study that we reported on in July 2004 also provides information on the major challenges that federal CIOs face in fulfilling their duties.[Footnote 20] In particular, CIOs view IT governance processes, funding, and human capital as critical to their success, as indicated by two challenges that were cited by over 80 percent of the CIOs: implementing effective information technology management and obtaining sufficient and relevant resources. * Effective IT management. Leading organizations execute their information technology management responsibilities reliably and efficiently. A little over 80 percent of the CIOs reported that they faced one or more challenges related to implementing effective IT management practices at their agencies. This is not surprising given that, as we have previously reported, the government has not always successfully executed the IT management areas that were most frequently cited as challenges by the CIOs--information security, enterprise architecture, investment management, and e- gov.[Footnote 21] * Sufficient and relevant resources. One key element in ensuring an agency's information and technology success is having adequate resources. Virtually all agency CIOs cited resources, both in dollars and staff, as major challenges. The funding issues cited generally concerned the development and implementation of agency IT budgets and whether certain IT projects, programs, or operations were being adequately funded. We have previously reported that the way agency initiatives are originated can create funding challenges that are not found in the private sector.[Footnote 22] For example, certain information systems may be mandated or legislated, so the agency does not have the flexibility to decide whether to pursue them. Additionally, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the funding levels that may be available from year to year. The government also faces long-standing and widely recognized challenges in maintaining a high-quality IT workforce. In 1994 and 2001, we reported on the importance that leading organizations placed on making sure they had the right mix of skills in their IT workforce.[Footnote 23] About 70 percent of the agency CIOs reported on a number of substantial IT human capital challenges, including, in some cases, the need for additional staff. Other challenges included recruiting, retention, training and development, and succession planning. In addition, two other commonly cited challenges were communicating and collaborating (both internally and externally) and managing change. * Communicating and collaborating. Our prior work has shown the importance of communication and collaboration, both within an agency and with its external partners. For example, one of the critical success factors we identified in our guide focuses on the CIO's ability to establish his or her organization as a central player in the enterprise.[Footnote 24] Ten agency CIOs reported that communication and collaboration were challenges. Examples of internal communication and collaboration challenges included (1) cultivating, nurturing, and maintaining partnerships and alliances while producing results in the best interest of the enterprise and (2) establishing supporting governance structures that ensure two-way communication with the agency head and effective communication with the business part of the organization and component entities. Other CIOs cited activities associated with communicating and collaborating with outside entities as challenges, including sharing information with partners and influencing the Congress and OMB. * Managing change. Top leadership involvement and clear lines of accountability for making management improvements are critical to overcoming an organization's natural resistance to change, marshaling the resources needed to improve management, and building and maintaining organizationwide commitment to new ways of doing business. Some CIOs reported challenges associated with implementing both changes originating from their own initiative and changes from outside forces. Implementing major IT changes can involve not only technical risks but also nontechnical risks, such as those associated with people and the organization's culture. Six CIOs cited dealing with the government's culture and bureaucracy as challenges to implementing change. Former agency IT executives also cited the need for cultural changes as a major challenge facing CIOs. Accordingly, in order to effectively implement change, it is important that CIOs build understanding, commitment, and support among those who will be affected by the change. Effectively tackling these reported challenges can improve the likelihood of a CIO's success. Until these challenges are overcome, federal agencies are unlikely to optimize their use of information and technology, which can affect an organization's ability to effectively and efficiently implement its programs and missions. Roles and Responsibilities of the CIO Position at VA Have Evolved over Time: Since enactment of the Clinger-Cohen Act in 1996, the roles and responsibilities of VA's Chief Information Officer have evolved.From lacking a CIO entirely, the department has taken steps to address the challenges posed by its multiple widespread components and its decentralized information technology and services. In June 1998, VA assigned CIO responsibility to a top manager.[Footnote 25] However, we reported in July 1998[Footnote 26] that the person holding the CIO position at VA had multiple additional major responsibilities, as this person also served as Assistant Secretary for Management, Chief Financial Officer, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget. According to the act, the CIO's primary responsibility should be information and technology management. Noting that VA's structure was decentralized, its IT budget was large, and its CIO faced serious information and technology management issues, we recommended that the Secretary appoint a CIO with full-time responsibilities for IRM. Concurring with the recommendation, VA established the position of Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology to serve as its CIO. As of May 2000, however, the position of Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology was vacant, and as we reported at the time,[Footnote 27] it had been unfilled since its creation in 1998. The Secretary then created and filled the position of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, designating that person as VA's acting CIO until an Assistant Secretary could be appointed. The Secretary also realigned IRM functions within VA under this position, which reported directly to the Secretary. As we reported,[Footnote 28] the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary was involved in IT planning issues across the department. In addition to advising the Secretary on IT issues, he served as chair of the department's CIO Council and as a member of the department's Capital Investment Board, and he worked with the CIOs in VBA and VHA (at the time, NCA had no CIO). According to this official, one of his priorities was to ensure that IT activities in VBA and VHA were in concert with VA's departmentwide efforts. In August 2001, VA filled the CIO position. In March 2002,[Footnote 29] we testified that this hiring was one of the important strides that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs had made to improve the department's IT leadership and management, along with making a commitment to reform the department's use of IT. On June 29, 2003, the CIO retired after a tenure of almost 2 years (about the median length of tenure for federal CIOs, as discussed above); the current CIO was confirmed in January 2004. Figure 1 is a time line showing the history of the CIO position at VA since the passage of the Clinger-Cohen Act. Figure 1: Time Line of CIO Tenure at VA: [See PDF for image] Source: GAO. [End of figure] VA Proposed to Realign its IT Organization in Response to IT Management Challenges: Our prior work highlighted some of the challenges that the CIO faced as a result of the way the department was organized to carry out its IT mission.[Footnote 30] Among these challenges was that information systems and services were highly decentralized, and the VA administrations and staff offices controlled a majority of the department's IT budget. For example, in VA's information technology budget for fiscal year 2002 of approximately $1.25 billion, VHA controlled about $1.02 billion (over 80 percent), whereas the department level controlled about $60.2 million (less than 5 percent). In addition, we noted that there was neither direct nor indirect reporting to VA's cyber security officer--the department's senior security official--thus raising questions about this person's ability to enforce compliance with security policies and procedures and ensure accountability for actions taken throughout the department. The more than 600 information security officers in VA's three administrations and its many medical facilities throughout the country were responsible for ensuring the department's information security, although they reported only to their facility's director or to the chief information officer of their administration. Given the large annual funding base and decentralized management structure, we testified that it was crucial for the departmental CIO to ensure that well-established and integrated processes for leading, managing, and controlling investments are commonplace and followed throughout the department. This is consistent with the finding in our CIO review that implementation of IT management practices was a challenge; over half of federal CIOs identified IT investment management specifically. Recognizing weaknesses in accountability for the department's IT resources and the need to reorganize IT management and financing, the Secretary announced a realignment of the department's IT operations in a memorandum dated August 2002. According to the memorandum, the realignment would centralize IT functions, programs, workforce personnel, and funding into the office of the department-level CIO. In particular, several significant changes were described: * The CIOs in each of the three administrations--VHA, VBA, and NCA-- were to be designated deputy CIOs and were to report directly to the department-level CIO. Previously, these officials served as component- level CIOs who reported only to their respective administrations' under secretaries. * All administration-level cyber security functions were to be consolidated under the department's cyber security office, and all monies earmarked by VA for these functions were to be placed under the authority of the cyber security officer. Information security officers previously assigned to VHA's 21 veterans integrated service networks[Footnote 31] would report directly to the cyber security officer, thus extending the responsibilities of the cyber security office to the field. * Beginning in fiscal year 2003, the department-level CIO would assume executive authority over VA's IT funding. In September 2002,[Footnote 32] we testified that in pursuing these reforms, the Secretary demonstrated the significance of establishing an effective management structure for building credibility in the way IT is used, and took a significant step toward achieving a "One VA" vision. The Secretary's initiative was also a bold and innovative step by the department--one that has been undertaken by few other federal agencies. For example, of 17 agencies contacted in 2002, 8 reported having component-level CIOs, none of which reported to the department- level CIO. Only one agency with component-level CIOs reported that its department-level CIO had authority over all IT funding. We also noted that the CIO's success in managing IT operations under the realignment would hinge on effective collaboration with business counterparts to guide IT solutions that meet mission needs, and we pointed out the importance of the three key contributors to CIO success described in our 2001 guidance (discussed earlier).[Footnote 33] Although we have not reviewed the current status of this proposed realignment or VA's current organizational structure, it remains our view that the proposed realignment held promise for building a more solid foundation for investing in and improving the department's accountability over IT resources. Specifically, under the realignment the CIO would assume budget authority over all IT funding, including authority to veto proposals submitted from subdepartment levels. This could have a significant effect on VA's accountability for how components are spending money.[Footnote 34] To sum up, the CIO plays a vital role in ensuring that VA's funds are well spent and in managing information technology to serve our nation's veterans. In our view, the realignment of VA's IT organization proposed in 2002 held promise for improving accountability and enabling the department to accomplish its mission. The additional oversight afforded the CIO could have a significant impact on the department's ability to more effectively account for and manage its proposed $2.1 billion in planned IT spending. Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to respond to any questions that you or other members of this Committee may have at this time. Contacts and Acknowledgements: For information about this testimony, please contact Linda D. Koontz, Director, Information Management Issues, at (202) 512-6240 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this statement. Individuals making key contributions to this testimony include Barbara Collier, Lester Diamond, Barbara Oliver, and Eric Trout. FOOTNOTES  GAO, Federal Chief Information Officers: Responsibilities, Reporting Relationships, Tenure, and Challenges, GAO-04-823 (July 21, 2004).  GAO, Maximizing the Success of Chief Information Officers: Learning from Leading Organizations, GAO-01-376G (Washington, D.C.: February 2001).  VBA provides nonmedical benefits to veterans and their dependents; VHA provides services through the nation's largest health-care system; and NCA provides burial services in 115 national cemeteries.  IRM is the process of managing information resources to accomplish agency missions and to improve agency performance.  Pub. L. 96-511 (Dec. 11, 1980).  That is, the burden of responding to government information collections: forms, surveys, and questionnaires.  The 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act referred to this as "automatic data processing and telecommunications equipment," a term that has since been replaced by "IT."  Pub. L. 104-106, February 10, 1996. The law, initially entitled the Information Technology Management Reform Act, was subsequently renamed the Clinger-Cohen Act in Pub. L. 104-208, September 30, 1996.  The 24 major departments and agencies are specified in 31 U.S.C. 901.  The E-Government Act of 2002 reiterated agency responsibility for information resources management. Pub. L. 107-347, December 17, 2002.  The 27 agencies covered by our report were the Departments of Agriculture, the Air Force, the Army, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Justice, Labor, the Navy, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Personnel Management, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development.  GAO, Federal Chief Information Officers: Responsibilities, Reporting Relationships, Tenure, and Challenges, GAO-04-823 (July 21, 2004).  The acting CIO at VA at the time of the review responded that the CIO was responsible for all the activities except for statistical policy and coordination.  This is particularly the case in agencies that contain Principal Statistical Agencies, such as the Bureau of Economic Analysis (Department of Commerce), Bureau of Justice Statistics (Department of Justice), Bureau of Labor Statistics (Department of Labor), and others.  GAO, Maximizing the Success of Chief Information Officers: Learning from Leading Organizations, GAO-01-376G (Washington, D.C.: February 2001).  The Homeland Security Act of 2002 states that the CIO for the Department of Homeland Security shall report to the Secretary of Homeland Security or to another official as directed by the Secretary. As allowed by the law, the Secretary has directed the CIO to report to the Under Secretary for Management.  This panel of industry, state government, and academic experts provides outside expertise to GAO on information technology issues.  We did not include acting CIOs in this calculation, unless the acting CIO was later put in the permanent position. We calculated tenure since the enactment of the Clinger-Cohen Act (1996).  GAO, Maximizing the Success of Chief Information Officers: Learning from Leading Organizations, GAO-01-376G (Washington, D.C.: February 2001).  GAO, Federal Chief Information Officers: Responsibilities, Reporting Relationships, Tenure, and Challenges, GAO-04-823 (Washington, D.C.: July 21, 2004).  See, for example, GAO, High-Risk Series: Protecting Information Systems Supporting the Federal Government and the Nation's Critical Infrastructures; GAO-03-121 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 1, 2003); Information Technology Management: Governmentwide Strategic Planning, Performance Measurement, and Investment Management Can Be Further Improved, GAO-04-49 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 12, 2004); Information Technology: Leadership Remains Key to Agencies Making Progress on Enterprise Architecture Efforts, GAO-04-40 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 17, 2003); and Major Management Challenges and Program Risks: A Governmentwide Perspective, GAO-03-95 (Washington, D.C.: January 2003).  GAO, Chief Information Officers: Implementing Effective CIO Organizations, GAO/T-AIMD-00-128 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 24, 2000).  GAO, Executive Guide: Improving Mission Performance through Strategic Information Management and Technology, GAO/AIMD-94-115 (Washington, D.C.: May 1, 1994) and GAO-01-376G.  GAO-01-376G.  Section 5604 of the Clinger-Cohen Act specifically created the position of Chief Information Officer at VA effective August 8, 1996. See 38 U.S.C. § 310.  GAO, VA Information Technology: Improvements Needed to Implement Legislative Reforms, GAO/AIMD-98-154 (Washington, D.C.: July 7, 1998).  GAO, Information Technology: Update on VA Actions to Implement Critical Reforms, GAO/AIMD-00-74 (Washington, D.C.: May 11, 2000).  GAO, Information Technology: Update on VA Actions to Implement Critical Reforms, GAO/AIMD-00-74 (Washington, D.C.: May 11, 2000).  GAO, Progress Made, but Continued Management Attention Is Key to Achieving Results, GAO-02-369T (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 13, 2002).  GAO, VA Information Technology: Important Initiatives Begun, Yet Serious Vulnerabilities Persist, GAO-01-550T (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 4, 2001) and VA Information Technology: Progress Made, but Continued Management Attention Is Key to Achieving Results, GAO-02-369T (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 13, 2002).  The veterans integrated service network (VISN) is the basic budgetary and planning unit of the veterans health care system. Funding and other resources are distributed through the VISN. Each VISN covers a geographic area that encompasses a population of veteran beneficiaries.  GAO, VA Information Technology: Management Making Important Progress in Addressing Key Challenges, GAO-02-1054T (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 26, 200s).  GAO, Maximizing the Success of Chief Information Officers: Learning from Leading Organizations, GAO-01-376G (Washington, D.C.: February 2001).  GAO, VA Information Technology: Progress Continues Although Vulnerabilities Remain, GAO/T-AIMD-00-321 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 21, 2000).