AFCEA gives pointers to next DHA CIO

Industry partners are trying to give the next Defense Health Agency chief information officer some tips how to be effective in a short amount of time.

AFCEA brought together members of Microsoft, Booz Allan Hamilton, Mitre and other companies to give the DHA CIO and other DHA leaders advice on the challenges in defense health IT.

DHA CIO David Bowen left in December, but since then the demands on the office have not let up.

Whoever fills Bowen’s position will be faced with a slew of challenges and only have a short amount of time to deal with them and pave the way for the next administration.

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A report released May 2 tells the next DHA CIO to first understand his or her baseline environment.

“It will be pivotal to identify and aggressively connect in person with key stakeholders, aligning with champions to solidify partnerships and identify what’s working well and what isn’t. Publish a top priorities list within 30 to 60 days understanding it WILL be modified — it’s always a living list,” said the report, which has input from 10 different organizations.

The industry partners suggest making the transition to electronic health records a top priority. The report states that DHA cannot be seen as the cause for delays to electronic records.

DHA is expected to spend about $1.5 billion over the next three years to procure a new commercial electronic records system.

The report also recommends understanding funding sources, establishing guidelines for industry interaction and giving the chief information security officer the power and funds to protect DHA data.

Jim Craft, deputy director of information enterprise management for the Joint Improvised-Threat Defense Agency, speared-headed the initiative as a private citizen.

“I went to AFCEA’s Cyber Committee and I said, ‘Can you pull the existing contractors, as many of them as you can find, as quick as you can, get them in there? A one day workshop, spot analysis [laying out] strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and what are the top priorities you recommend for the new CIO?’” Craft said, during an April 26 speech during an AFCEA event in Fairfax, Virginia.

Craft said the incoming CIO will have a lot on his plate once he gets into office. DHA has only been an agency since 2013 so it is still growing into itself. The country is at war and DHA has to act in wartime-mode.

Additionally, budgets are austere, technology is exploding and legal requirements are mounting, Craft said.

That’s not to mention that DHA has 60 IT positions that are currently unfilled, Craft said.

Along with prioritizing areas the CIO should focus on, the report lays out perceived threats to DHA’s success.

Those include a cybersecurity or health records breach and a slower than expected migration away from legacy systems.

The report points out acquisition processes as well.

“Flawed oversight of acquisition processes and services contracts can undercut CIO credibility and effectiveness. Inadequate cohesive management of industry contractor engagement would contribute to this,” the report stated.

Of course there are areas of opportunity for DHA too. Industry partners found those in maximizing the move to next generation health IT systems, freeing up budget slack and giving the CIO an opportunity to exert his own leadership and thrive in his environment.

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