Accountability Breeds Efficiency

by Stephanie Sullivan, Consultant

The 4th Annual Lowering the of Government with IT Summit was held on August 22, 2012 and focused on the best ways government can become more efficient and save money through the use of innovative technologies. The topics covered at the summit ranged from customer engagement, security, mobility, open source, and some best practices for lowering the government’s cost of doing business.

Roger Baker, the Chief Information Officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), was a keynote at the event and began his portion by explaining that the need for consolidation has become critical at the VA, and that accountability breeds efficiency when it comes to lowering the cost of IT within the agency. Mission needs at the VA are growing faster than the budget, and the agency’s Program Management Accountability System (PMAS) is working to save the agency money by providing increased visibility of projects and programs across the Department.  Another way the agency is looking to cut costs is by downsizing the use of personalized printers by making the shift to utilize network printers, which will help reduce toner costs.

Baker explained that he looks at 3 tiers of IT savings within the VA:

  • Micro – Optimize inside the portfolio, which could result in $40M-$100M cost savings from restructuring contracts, and optimizing software licenses and equipment prices
  • Minor –  Restructure the IT organization through PMAS, which has helped the agency move from a 30% success rate to a 90% success rate in the delivery of software (Baker mentioned this could be seen more as cost avoidance than cost savings)
  • Major – These investments renovate a major piece of  IT which leads to cost savings, for example, the VA spent $4B on the VISTA system, but got a return of approximately $7.5B

According to a recent FedScoop interview with Roger Baker, the VA is currently looking into implementing major savings from the benefits side with parts of the new GI Bill, including more automation, meaning fewer employees are needed for the next 20 years to process claims.

Baker has said that the biggest challenge when it comes to implementing major changes is the need for hard decisions to be made, and making sure money is being spent productively rather than wastefully.

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