VITA Savings

In comments to Jim’s post below, our friend Paul claims that savings from the Virginia Information Technology Agency, VITA, have always been claimed to be future savings.

According to this link, it appears the future is now.

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  1. I see your point, but here’s what I’d say:

    That’s a chart of savings, but it doesn’t show you the whole picture. There are also short term costs, as I mentioned in the post below.

    For example, creating a new large central server to replace the numerous old servers. These short term costs out pace the short term savings (as listed in your chart).

    But once those investments are made, that’s when the savings come.

    Perhaps this chart is disingenuous because it doesn’t list those costs. It does list the three steps in the transition:

    1. Formation of VITA;
    2. Integration of IT functions statewide; and
    3. Transformation to consolidate facilities, hardware and software and designated staff

    The staff part has been transformed, but the hardware has not yet been completed.

    I DO know that the Verizon contract saved the state much more money that this chart suggests. There are other examples as well.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Bravo, Will excellent blog reporting. Your link to the “Virginia Excels” website, which is apparently run out of the Governor’s office (note the URL: “”), says it all. For purposes of polishing Mark Warner’s image as a pragmatic, reform-minded, can-do governor, the administration is claiming big-time cost savings.

    Paul may well be right in stating that the savings will start out small, as investments are made, and will grow over time. But that doesn’t square with the claims being made by the governor’s spin-meisters.

    As a further complicating factor, consider the frustration of the House of Delegates. Back during the budget debates, the tax hawks repeatedly asked for Warner administration projects of anticipated savings due to VITA initiatives. Bacon’s Rebellion columnist Pat McSweeney complained in more than one column of how the administration stone-walled the delegates and refused to divulge any numbers.

    My high-ranking source in the administration notes that the accounting issues in tracking “savings” are really hairy. It all depends, I guess, on how you count the numbers.

    At the end of the day, there can be no denying the disjunction between rhetoric and reality. Warner’s spin-meisters are claiming big savings, while the guys in the trenches are raising rates.

    There may be a very good explanation for the seeming discrepency. But the blogging community should insist upon seeing that explanation.

  3. Yeah I mean – I’m not going to keep spitting into the fan here. I haven’t followed the Governor’s spin for the last few years, but if it’s what you say it was, then it’s a bit off…

    But I’m optimistic (and so is everyone that I talk to) that this was the right thing to do and it will be a big money saver in the future.

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Paul, You’re exactly right. Time will show that forming VITA was the right thing to do. I have no question that in the long run Virginia state government will enjoy cheaper, more secure, higher quality IT services as a result. Could things have been done differently? Undoubtedly; one can always second guess the people who are doing the hard work. Are there still problems? Of course — just observe the anonymous posts to this blog. But that’s all to be expected from any major transformation.

    The other issue is rhetorical/political. Does the reality match up to the claims made by the spin meisters? Should the Warner administration be allowed to hype the cost savings for purposes of garnering national publicity but downplay the savings for purposes of drawing up the budget? There’s the rub.

  5. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    I’ll tell you what I think the problem is–commitment. This applies regardless of who is governor, at least in my limited experience.

    The Governor is committed to excellence: improving efficiency and saving money for the taxpayers.

    The Governor’s immediate staff–his communication team–is committed to trumpeting that his policies are producing excellence.

    The Governor’s cabinet and agency directors are “temporary” employees with little or no commitment to actively making the Governor’s commitment a reality. The communications team handles that, as far as they’re concerned; they’ll provide some numbers, but nobody’s banging on them to make the Governor’s agenda really work.

    The actual doers and implementers have seen all this before. They see the lack of real commitment at the level they interact with. Their cabinet secretary or agency is usually just trying to make a name for him/herself; there are rarely effective, vetted plans for making a governor’s agenda a reality.

    VITA, to the majority of state workers, is something to work around. Next year it’ll be different.

    The above is one of the more compelling aspects of arguing for a Governor who could serve consecutive terms, but the flip side is possibly 8 years of hype and no action, rather than just four.

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