IG: Veterans Affairs may have overlooked cost of physical improvements needed for EHR

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  • The Department of Veterans Affairs vastly underestimated the costs of physical infrastructure upgrades needed to support its new electronic health record. VA is updating electrical work, cabling, heating, ventilation, and cooling at its medical facilities to prepare for the Cerner Millennium commercial health record. But the department’s inspector general said VA initially underestimated those costs by as much as $2.6 billion in some cases. The IG said VA did not originally understand what its facilities actually needed. The department also failed to report these infrastructure costs to Congress.
  • Former President Donald Trump’s Schedule F executive order would have led to a major reckoning within the federal civil service. Now the House Oversight and Reform Committee is passing a bipartisan bill that would prevent any administration from trying it again without approval from Congress. The Preventing a Patronage System Act would prevent the White House from moving federal jobs outside the competitive service without approval from Congress. President Joe Biden repealed the Trump executive order in his first week in office. (Federal News Network)
  • The bipartisan postal bill moving through Congress has big implications for federal employees and their health benefits. An employee advocacy group is worried the Postal Service Reform Act could raise health insurance premiums for federal employees and retirees. The bill would separate current postal workers from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and move them into a separate one. It would require postal workers age 65 and older to enroll in Medicare. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association said this could leave the FEHBP with more expensive participants to insure. (Federal News Network)
  • The House Oversight and Reform Committee digs into social media surveillance at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) ask the USPS inspector general to look into the scope of these practices. Through its Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), USPIS is flagging what it calls inflammatory posts and sending them to other federal law enforcement agencies. The lawmakers said the iCOP program is going beyond its original focus to stop illegal drug shipments.
  • The Postal Service is moving its online resources for employees to a new platform. USPS is rolling out its Access Registration and Identity System, or ARIS, to replace the eAccess platform it launched 23 years ago. USPS said ARIS uses off-the-shelf software, and will be cheaper to maintain and easier to secure. USPS will migrate more than 10 applications to the ARIS platform by the end of September, and will continue migrating apps in phases until it retires the eAccess platform in 2024.
  • More than three dozen technology companies told the Office of Management and Budget it’s time to end the buy versus build debate for software. Three industry groups and 44 technology companies are pressing the White House to make clear to agencies that they should buy software before building it. The Alliance for Digital Innovation, the Silicon Valley Defense Group, the Alliance for Commercial Technology in Government and dozens of major government contractors want a memo from OMB that clearly outlines this long-held requirement so that agencies can take more advantage of commercial innovations. The companies said agencies too often are building software instead of buying it, which is more expensive and has a higher failure rate.
  • The long-awaited and much anticipated new governmentwide acquisition contract from the NIH IT Acquisition and Assessment center hits the street. NITAAC released the solicitation for CIO-SP4, which has a $50 billion ceiling over 10 years. The fourth-generation GWAC will let agencies buy IT, biomedical and health IT products and services across 10 task areas including IT integration. digital and cloud services and software development. NITAAC expected to release the RFP in March, but the review process caused delays. Proposals are due June 28.
  • A lawsuit forces the Census Bureau to commit to a hard date for releasing data, so states can redraw their congressional districts. That date will be Aug. 16. The pandemic delayed the decennial count and resulting data, normally due March 31. Bloomberg Government reported that Census said in a federal court filing it had set the new date, in a suit by Ohio. The bureau has said it’ll give all states their population data on the same day. Ohio contends it needs the data to meet a state constitutional deadline of Sept. 30.
  • The Coast Guard is creating a cross functional working group to take a better approach to unmanned capabilities. The UxS group will look into ways the service can take a more strategic tack to drone systems, and accelerate its work with existing and future technologies. The creation of the group stems from a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
  • The Army is working with its soldiers to come up with novel ways to prevent suicide. The 18th Airborne Corps frequently conducts a Shark Tank-style competition to help bring ideas from soldiers up to decision makers. This time it’s working to prevent suicide. The Corps is singling out two soldiers’ ideas. One solution recommends mandatory behavioral health checks for soldiers every six months. The other proposal suggests a program to expand the Army’s spiritual readiness by integrating spirituality in the same manner that the service emphasizes physical fitness.

 

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