Lawmakers direct anger at VA over another struggling IT project

As attention to the Department of Veterans Affairs electronic health records modernization initiative seems to never stop, another major IT initiative is struggling and starting to garner congressional interest – and not in the right direction. sense.

VA has been in a supply chain modernization effort for two years and is on the brink of abyss for a variety of reasons, including a court ruling that ended part of the initiative, and a lack comprehensive strategy to address standards and typical technology and culture complexities.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) Is the Chairman of the Veterans Committee.

“For me, as president, modernizing VA’s supply chain systems is a high priority, and it doesn’t seem like things are going well with the supply chain system, even with the money. additional CARES legislation that we provided, ”said Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, in a Sept. 30 hearing on VA’s computer modernization efforts. “I have to tell you that failure to modernize the system is not an option. I know, Dr Evans, that you are new to your role as Interim CIO, but it is a priority and I hope you will all focus on it. I know this is a long standing problem, but we have to get around it. “

What some believe is a $ 2 billion project, VA has been working on this effort since 2019, when it agreed to move to a 20-year-old Defense Logistics Agency system called Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support (DMLSS). , and out of their own 30-year-old supply chain logistics management system.

VA’s goals for this initiative are twofold: one part is to modernize its inventory management system, and the other is to move to DLA’s existing contract vehicle and move away from its current set of suppliers.

While a Federal Claims Court ruling in July virtually halted the move to DLA medical and surgical contracts for the foreseeable future, it is the other element of the initiative that has raised serious concern among lawmakers. and industry.

In over a year, VA only implemented the DLA inventory management system at Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago.

Takano and rank member Mike Bost (R-Ill.) And Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) And Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chairman and rank member of the Upper House Veterans Committee respectively, wrote to the VA in July, after the court ruling, asking for more details of the supply chain modernization plan.

“VA must explain how she intends to adapt to this new reality. Forking the VA medico-surgical supply chain between VISN 20 and 6 and the rest of the United States is not a viable long-term strategy, ”the lawmakers wrote. “A patchwork of supply chains would undermine standardization, present management challenges, increase waste and create unnecessary complexity. There is no clear path to widespread adoption of DLA Medico-Surgical Surgery Primary Vendor contracts, and substantial changes need to be made to the MSPV 2.0 solicitation.

Hearing scheduled for November

Roger Waldron, chair of the Coalition for Government Procurement, an industry association whose members are part of VA’s medical supply chain, said this modernization effort has been a challenge for many years.

“VA’s industry partners look forward to engaging with VA leadership on the MSPV program and the IT logistics systems that support it,” Waldron said in an email to Federal News Network. “Stakeholder engagement will ensure the broad input needed to fully understand and address the technical, managerial, logistical and procurement considerations facing the program. “

Since that letter, a Majority Committee aide said they haven’t heard much from VA about their plans.

The aide said that while VA responded to the letter, Takano remains concerned.

“We are entering the deepening phase, and it feels like they have to restart,” said the assistant. “The committee plans to have a hearing in November on this program.”

During the hearing, Todd Simpson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of DevSecOps, said VA plans to further deploy the inventory management system to health centers across the Pacific Northwest, known as VISN 20, in during mid-year 2022.

“Our primary goal with DMLSS is obviously to support common core technologies to enable a successful DMLSS implementation. We’re focused on a DMLSS cloud enclave that will provide testing and training capabilities to practitioners and users, and that’s really where we’re focusing right now in our DMLSS journey, ”said Simpson.

Two-step implementation plan

A minority committee aide added that VA’s decision to continue implementing the DLA DMLSS inventory management system remains baffling.

The Minority Committee Assistant said VA’s current plan is to fully transition to DMLSS by 2027, three years longer than originally planned. There are discussions on speeding up the timeline which must be completed by 2025.

One of the reasons the implementation of DMLSS will take so long, the committee assistant said, is that VA will implement it first in on-premises data centers and then move to the cloud.

The assistant said that instead, VA could skip this initial on-premise implementation and move directly to the cloud through the Defense Health Agency system called LogiCole when it becomes available in 2025.

“If an inventory management system is the most important thing that we agree with, let’s try to identify the best one and buy it,” the assistant said. “We know VA struggles with multi-year and multi-billion dollar big bang computer programs. We believe that we can avoid doing another one and meet the demands of a modern system in a faster and more agile way. “

In many ways, DMLSS seems to be stuck in the old VA way of thinking about IT modernization via a waterfall or a stricter approach. Given the challenges posed by the pandemic, it seems logical for VA to shift gears and seek a more modern and agile cloud system, as medical supply chain management does not appear to be a unique challenge for VA.

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About Joaquin Robertson

Joaquin Robertson

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