Veterans Affairs launches new office for homeland security

The Veterans Affairs Department has created a new office to centralize the department's homeland security efforts. VA Secretary Anthony Principi approved the creation of the Office of Operations, Security and Preparedness in November after he and other department officials reviewed the results of a six-week study identifying improvements the department could make in its terrorism response plan. The new office, which will oversee VA's readiness and emergency activities, will merge the department's emergency operations center and security and law enforcement office. "This is a very different animal we're facing now with homeland security problems," VA Deputy Secretary Leo S. Mackay told Government Executive during a recent interview. "In looking back at our experience on Sept. 11…gaps were identified in our ability to control the operations of VA under stressful conditions and offer as emergency backup in the federal response plan the resources that VA brings in medical preparedness and public health," Mackay said. VA plays a key role in the federal government's national preparedness plan by working with state and local health care providers and by providing training for responding to chemical, biological and radiological warfare. While VA is experienced at responding to disasters such as floods or tornadoes, the terrorist attacks brought on unanticipated problems. "We were doing things, but we were not doing things at a departmental level and there wasn't an interagency process," Mackay said. The Office of Operations, Security and Preparedness will review everything from VA's health care assets, to its decontamination and isolation procedures and the size of its law enforcement staff to develop a plan for deploying those resources in emergency situations, Mackay said. Currently, VA is shifting resources inside the department, with a focus on working with the Homeland Security Council, which assists the President on homeland security issues. Mackay and Principi expect VA's new office to bridge the gap between the department and the council. VA officials are still organizing the office, assessing staffing and budget needs and deciding whether or not to establish an assistant secretary position specifically to oversee it. In the interim, responsibility for the office falls to C.M. "Mick" Kicklighter, VA's assistant secretary for policy and planning. "We have new functions that are going to require new slots and new positions, but there is a lot of capability already in residence," Mackay said. "We're looking at how to leverage existing capabilities so that when we stand this office up, we stand it up as a robust entity, with a minimum amount of new hires and new expenditures."
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.