VA Must Strengthen Management of ADP Resources To Serve Veteran's Needs

FGMSD-80-60: Published: Jul 16, 1980. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 1980.

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A review was undertaken of the Veterans Administration's (VA) management and use of its automated data processing (ADP) resources. VA uses computers extensively to aid in administering its various programs. Under the direction of its Office of Data Management and Telecommunications, VA operates six ADP centers and has a total staff of about 2,000. In addition to this ADP capability, VA has at least 400 minicomputers located at 172 VA medical centers in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. An estimated $113 million was spent in 1979 for ADP system support, and VA expects to spend substantially more in the near future. Currently, VA has three major system development efforts underway. Two deal with its compensation, pension, and education applications, and the third effort deals with the development of a Health Care Information System.

In its review, GAO found that VA needs to make better use of its ADP resources if it is to effectively support veterans' needs. A master ADP plan, guided more by overall ADP needs than by parochial wants, must be developed and followed. Serious weaknesses in the management of ADP resources can adversely affect the acquisition, development, and maintenance of ADP systems. Some of the weaknesses GAO found present in the ADP system used by VA include: (1) computer acquisition practices that do not meet user needs or comply with Federal policies; (2) software work approval practices that do not assure that resources spent on software are channeled to the most important projects; (3) ineffective control of software work in process; (4) poorly coordinated use of data processing by VA hospitals; and (5) a need for more systematic and responsible involvement of hospitals in planning for a critical Health Care Information System estimated in 1978 to cost $520 million. Experience has shown that when users do not participate in a responsible manner in the development of a system, the system is destined for failure.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should withhold further funding for the Health Care Information System until the Appropriations Committees are satisfied that VA will implement the substance of the recommendations contained in this report.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should: (1) make a firm commitment to competitive procurement and establish management procedures as well as a formal planning process that will further the prompt competitive acquisition of the correct type and size of ADP equipment; (2) strengthen the planning process by requiring wider user participation, a distinction between required and discretionary software work, and more accountability at the senior management level; (3) establish a staff dedicated to performing discretionary software work such as development, redesign, enhancement, and conversion; (4) adopt and act to enforce the management techniques and procedures being proposed for controlling software work; (5) establish better coordination of hospitals' use of ADP resources; and (6) with the aid of users, analyze more thoroughly the health care system being planned. This analysis should include a detailed study of available capabilities in-house, in other Federal agencies, and in the private sector.

    Agency Affected:

 

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