The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is planning on strengthening the oversight of its major IT modernization contracts in response to recent legislation from Congress.

The VA released a draft request for proposals (RFP) on Tuesday, requesting industry’s input on the agency’s plans to initiate independent verification and validation (IV&V) for its major acquisition programs.

The RFP comes after Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., introduced the VA IT Modernization Improvement Act earlier this year, which called on the agency to contract IV&V support for major acquisitions.

“This will enable true independent and agnostic oversight, to validate and provide confidence that what we have asked the contractor to do was properly delivered on time and budget,” VA Chief Acquisition Officer Michael Parrish told members of the House VA Committee on July 20.

Parrish said the VA expects to implement this “truly independent validation and verification contract” by the end of the year, which is in line with Rep. Takano’s legislation.

According to the RFP, the programs that would be assessed will likely include the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program, Financial Management Business Transformation (FMBT) program, and Supply Chain Modernization (SCM) program. However, additional programs may also be considered.

Both VA officials and Government Accountability Office (GAO) officials have voiced support for the legislation.

“Contracting IV&V support while VA builds internal capacity makes practical sense and will help expedite the resulting delivery of benefits to veterans, their caregivers, and family members,” Phillip Christy, deputy executive director of VA’s Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction, said during an April hearing on the legislation. “VA anticipates an IV&V contract of this size would be extremely expensive – appropriate and timely funding of this bill is critical.”

During the same hearing, Shelby Oakley, director of contracting and national security acquisitions at GAO, said the IV&V would be especially helpful for the EHRM program – which is currently in the middle of a “program reset,” while the VA and Oracle Cerner focus on improvements at the five sites where the EHR system is deployed.

“Having a concerted IV&V effort for a program like EHRM as it continues to roll out, I think, is critically important to provide that good quality information to make those go/no-go decisions and the certifications that are outlined in the bill,” Oakley said.

Feedback on the draft RFP is due by 5 p.m. on August 18.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.