Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Ranking Member Jerry Moran, R-Kan., introduced legislation last week that would establish a review board for major Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acquisitions.

The senators introduced the Acquisition Review Board and Cost Assessment Act of 2023 on July 20, which would ensure VA contracts are in compliance during the early stages of the agency’s decision-making process.

“The challenges we’ve experienced with the new electronic health record system and other major contracts have made clear we need better oversight of major VA contracts before they’re made,” Sen. Tester said in a press release. “That’s why Senator Moran and I are introducing our bipartisan legislation to establish an acquisitions review board that will help ensure VA is being a good steward of Americans’ taxpayer dollars when it comes to programs that serve veterans.”

“This legislation will help ensure that the procurement of goods and services at the Department of Veterans Affairs is carried out responsibly, efficiently and effectively to support veterans and prudently spend taxpayer dollars,” added Sen. Moran.

The review board and cost assessment program would help ensure there is additional oversight over the VA’s major acquisition projects – something that the VA is also trying to implement.

The legislation was introduced just two days after the VA released a draft request for proposals (RFP), 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 calls on the agency to contract IV&V support for major acquisitions.

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, the VA said it may also consider additional programs.

“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.

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