VA ‘Towards Full Compliance’ with Geospatial Data Act, Watchdog Finds
The Department of Veterans Affairs is “moving toward full compliance” with a 2018 law guiding the management and sharing of geospatial data by federal agencies, according to an audit conducted by the VA’s Office of Inspector General.
Under the Geospatial Data Act– a 2018 law designed to promote the use, collection, and management of location information – federal agencies are required to follow geospatial data standards set by the Federal Geographic Data Committee, or FGDC, as well as comply other reporting and data sharing requirements. As part of the law, the inspector general of covered federal agencies is also required to submit a report to Congress on a biennial basis detailing “the collection, production, acquisition, maintenance, distribution, use and preservation of geospatial data”. The OIG Auditreleased on Wednesday, is within the mandate of the law.
The OIG said VA uses geospatial data, including in its sub-agencies, to “support budget, strategic planning, and policy decisions to provide health care, benefits, and funeral services to veterans.” “.
“The Veterans Health Administration provides care to more than 9 million registered veterans and uses geospatial information to improve the veteran experience, such as calculating travel time and distance between residences and facilities. nearest HAV health,” the report said. “Geospatial data also enhances and improves the National Cemetery Administration’s ability to continuously count remains, mark burial sites, track burial site usage, and digitally map burial sites.”
The audit found that VA “meets nine of the 12 applicable agency requirements covered by the act”. One requirement was not applicable because VA “does not collect, maintain, manage or consume declassified geospatial data”.
The report noted agency-wide progress since the last audit mandated by the Geospatial Data Act, released in January 2021, which also found that VA was not in compliance with three of the law’s requirements. These deficient requirements included the preparation and implementation of an agency-specific strategy to advance geospatial data activities, promote geospatial data integration, and ensure geospatial data was included in timelines. records approved by the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA.
In both audits, the OIG stated that VA was unable to comply with the requirement regarding the implementation of a strategy to advance geospatial data activities “due to the lack of an approved strategic plan” by the FGDC. The latest audit, however, noted that the FGDC has approved the strategic plan and that VA is “in the process of implementing a VA enterprise data strategy roadmap and a VA spatial data strategy.”
While the OIG also found that VA was still not fully compliant with the requirement to promote geospatial data integration, it said the agency was in the process of approving its “roadmap corporate data strategy and its spatial strategy” and “worked collaboratively across the agency and entered into corporate license agreements. And the latest OIG audit also found that VA is now in compliance with the requirement governing the inclusion of geospatial data in NARA-approved agency registration schedules.
Since the last audit, however, the OIG found that VA no longer complied with the requirement to “protect privacy and maintain confidentiality in accordance with federal policy and law,” after additional criteria were added to assess agency compliance.
The report said Veterans Health Administration officials were, in part, unable to provide the audit team with a risk assessment of its geographic information systems – or GIS – which meant they had no not “documented and fully considered the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data to obtain operating authority before the GIS was hosted on the VA network. However, OIG noted that the agency is currently preparing to migrate its current GIS to a new VA enterprise cloud and, therefore, is “taking steps to meet this requirement”.
As a result of VA’s ongoing efforts to comply with all requirements of the Geospatial Data Act, the OIG has not offered the agency any recommendations for improvement.
“The OIG recognizes the complexity of integrating multiple geographic information systems across the agency,” the report states, adding that “The OIG encourages VA to complete its planned actions to ensure the compliance”.