VA chief pledges acquisition streamlining

Shinseki asked the Veterans Affairs Committee to back the creation of a new position -- assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and construction -- to manage relationships with the department's 15,000 suppliers.

He also sought authority to establish eight new deputy assistant secretary slots, five of which would be in the Office of Information and Technology, headed by Chief Information Officer Roger Baker. The new positions would oversee five separate business lines:

--Strategy, architecture and design
--Product development and delivery
--Enterprise program management
--IT performance management
--IT operations and engineering

Shinseki also said he wanted to create principal deputy assistant secretary positions in two areas: acquisition, logistics and construction; and construction and facilities management.

Shinseki said the new positions would not require increased funding or adding Senior Executive Service slots, but instead would be supported with existing resources.

He promised the committee that the anticipated savings from acquisition reform efforts would go to veterans. "Every dollar I can save, I can put into care and benefits," Shinseki said.

Improved management of information technology is essential to better management of VA as a whole, Shinseki told committee members. "Great IT development and execution, in turn, depends on very well-managed and disciplined acquisitions support and project management," he added.

In the past, VA IT setbacks have "largely been [the result] of project management and acquisition failures," problems the department has started to resolve with the development last June of the Program Management Accountability System, Shinseki said.

Reviews of programs under the system resulted in the cancellation of 12 IT projects last month for a savings of $54 million, Shinseki said.

Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., the ranking member on the VA Committee, endorsed Shinseki's request for the new appointments. Buyer asked the VA chief to provide him with a detailed acquisition reform policy within 30 days.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., did not immediately endorse Shinseki's requests and reminded Buyer that he was speaking for himself and not the full panel.

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