As the final resting place for many of our Veterans to commemorate the sacrifice and service to our Nation, it is crucial VA’s cemeteries have reliable bandwidth. This bandwidth helps National Cemetery Administration (NCA) staff efficiently collaborate via Microsoft Teams and access data on shared drives. The upgraded capacity supports many capabilities, systems, programs, and applications such as geospatial services, cloud-based technology, business intelligence dashboards, and more.
Beginning in 2020 — and continuing to gain speed throughout 2022 and beyond — VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT) has been teaming with NCA to improve the network circuits at NCA’s cemeteries and offices. OIT is currently replacing T-1 circuits with more efficient Metro-Ethernet (Metro-E) fiber optic cables and circuits with the goal of modernizing infrastructure and increasing bandwidth across NCA,
Upgrading the data network circuits began in July 2020 as one component of a four-pronged, multi-year NCA Infrastructure Modernization initiative to modernize more than 100 VA national cemeteries and other NCA sites nationwide. The modernization effort started when NCA, in collaboration with the OIT Account Management Office – Memorials Affairs team, partnered to identify a business need and formalized requirements to secure funding from conception to implementation. Nearly half of NCA sites require data network circuit upgrades. So far, the team has upgraded over 30 sites and less than 15 sites remain. Upgrades to the data network circuits are on track to successfully conclude in Fiscal Year 2023.
Iteratively upgrading the older copper cables to modern fiber optic cables boosted the size of the circuit and allowed up to 1100 megabytes of bandwidth per site — a vast improvement over the existing network capabilities. If sites need more bandwidth or upgrades once they are on fiber optic cables, providing upgrades is as simple as turning switches for local carriers, rather than having to lay new cables. The increase in bandwidth allows site staff to complete their work more efficiently, with fewer interruptions, and enables Veterans and their families to access facility resources and communicate with staff with ease, reliability, speed, and efficiency.
Christine Walker, Associate Chief Information Officer and Senior Advisor, as the executive lead for Memorial Affairs, directed the initiative and the business relationship management by overseeing the collaboration with the NCA business partner throughout the entire infrastructure modernization effort and ensured NCA’s mission needs were heard, documented, and met. The team also includes Larry Jamison, OIT Project Manager for NCA Infrastructure Modernization; Thomas Harsin, OIT Implementation Manager for Data Network Circuits; Chris Thornton, OIT Local Area Network and Wide Area Network Engineer (service provider); and Michael Emrich, NCA Technology and Infrastructure Lead.
“This project works toward our bottom line,” said Mr. Chris Thornton. “It moves us toward NCA’s goal of a modernized system of record and a cloud-based system, while meeting one of VA’s main strategic priorities: Business System Transformation and Modernization.” Once the data network circuit modernization initiative is complete, NCA cemeteries, offices, and facilities will have more reliable bandwidth, to include internet access, which NCA can count on to serve them and our Veterans.
With the data network circuit modernization effort, NCA and OIT are exemplifying commitment to Veterans throughout their journey, and to their families and loved ones after they have been put to rest. The NCA Infrastructure Modernization initiative ties closely with the VA Secretary’s Strategic Goals and Priorities, including delivering exceptional customer service, modernizing systems via digital transformation, business transformation, IT modernization, as well as seamless and secure data interoperability between VA and our business partners.
The modernization fully supports NCA’s Strategic Goals to ensure “Stakeholders will place greater trust in NCA based on enhanced accountability” and “Stakeholders will be served more efficiently and effectively based on NCA’s internal capacity.” Ultimately, the modernization effort is an overall win-win that will ensure Veteran customers and VA staff have an improved, outstanding experience across all levels of NCA service.
Learn more about the other NCA Infrastructure Modernization efforts conducted across the NCA enterprise in this series’ next NCA Infrastructure Modernization story about Upgrades to NCA’s Wireless Network.
Our commitment to digital and IT transformation is shaped by daily dedication to customer service and the close collaboration of our workforce, managers, and leaders. Ready to join us in improving Veterans’ care? Check out all current information and technology career opportunities on DigitalVA. You can also contact VA’s Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer at 512-326-6600, Monday thru Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST or by submitting a resume to VACareers@va.gov.