The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is keenly focused on improving the healthcare and general services that support our military veterans. Incumbent on these improvements is the integration of leading edge technologies that digitize and automate processes for efficiency along with important security enhancements.
ONE: Implementation of Electronic Health Records
The Department's efforts to modernize the way they store and access records for the nine million veterans they care for into a comprehensive electronic system has been well documented. These efforts involve upgrading all 1200+ VA facilities' existing systems to ensure better continuity of care, and are currently focused on moving EHR data to a cloud system that will be interoperable with the Military Health System. The ultimate goal is to ensure service members can seamlessly and digitally transition from DOD to VA health care, instead of needing to carry around stacks of paper forms as is current practice.
The Biden Administration recently issued its request for 2022 spending. This practice is really more of a policy effort than actual budgeting, but serves to illustrate administration priorities to inform agencies as to what is likely to get approved in the final budget. The 2022 budget request has a number of IT-specific priorities, starting with the funding of the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) at another $500 million for fiscal 2022. This would be in addition to the $1 billion that was invested as part of the American Rescue Plan Act--money that helped support the ongoing effort to digitize government services and operations.
The $58.4 billion in IT spending includes marked increases in the IT budgets of the Treasury Department, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Homeland Security. NASA and the Department of Commerce had small reductions to its IT budgets.
Agility has been a key attribute for success over the past year and a half. Everyone had to quickly adapt in their personal and professional lives to do things in new ways to keep business and society running. Even the great bureaucracy of government found itself pivoting and quickly changing "how it's always been done" to meet the needs of the day. This should not end with the return to what feels like pre-pandemic normal. In the form of Agile methodology, Agility will play a huge role in the government's ability to continue the fast-forwarded digital push as a result of the pandemic.
Just as government pushed agencies to try Cloud with the "Cloud First" initiative, some are suggesting the same approach for Agile. An "Agile-First" evolution would have a huge impact on IT modernization efforts, accelerating the move from legacy processes and technology to a modern digital approach. The response to COVID-19 showed that the government can move quickly in changing how they do work (across all areas of government). An Agile-first "mandate" could institutionalize that speed and make it the rule rather than the exception.
With telework expected to stay long after the pandemic ebbs, government agencies are looking to shore up the remote work solutions they put in place to ensure on premise security measures extend to the dispersed workforce. Multi-cloud environments are the reality for almost every agency. The many applications needed for the diverse functions of an organization require multiple cloud solutions to provide the specific support needed.
A report from Meritalk, Multi-Cloud Defense: Redefining the Cyber Playbook, found that 83 percent of respondents are increasing multi-cloud adoption to support telework and mission needs related to COVID-19. However, 42 percent said their cyber strategies cannot keep up. One part of the challenge is creating a solution that can be applied to the wide variety of endpoint devices and meeting enterprise security requirements.