Three years ago, Congress passed the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006. This act established an educational assistance program (EAP) for information security at the VA.
To date, not $1 has been disbursed for scholarships or loan repayments. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the initial grant the VA needs to disburse the funds isn’t even expected until 2011.
Under the act, the VA was to establish an EAP for doctoral students in computer science and doctoral students in computer and electrical engineering in order for the VA to expand their ability to recruit individuals with specific information security skills.
The program, as designed, has 2 distinct parts:
- A debt-reduction program for VA employees recently having earned their doctoral degrees ($16,500 per year up to a total of $82,500 for 5 years); and
- A full tuition scholarship program including a monthly stipend for individuals qualified enough who agree to work for the VA upon completion of their academic programs.
The GAO told the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees that the VA has taken some initiative in implementing the Information Security Education Assistance Program.
According to the GAO, the VA has:
- Drafted governing regulations;
- Begun reviewing the regulations internally; and
- Developed a budget impact analysis.
After the internal review is complete, additional steps will be required prior to issuing the regulations.
If the funds do become available, the VA will begin to seek candidates in January 2011 for this EAP. The soonest the VA would be able to hire a doctoral program graduate would be around January 2012. Therefore, if the candidate is just beginning their doctoral studies, it could be a significant amount of time before the VA is actually able to benefit from the education they would be, for the most part, financing.