Agriculture's CIO has made her career in public service
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Jul 13, 1997
Anne Reed chief information officer at the Agriculture Department has a ré sumé dotted with a variety of interesting jobs. But her commitment to public service is a common thread throughout her career.
"I've done a number of different things through the years so if you asked if I ever expected to be CIO of the Department of Agriculture the answer to that is no " she said. "But if you asked me in 1980 if I expected to spend the next 12 years in [the] Department of Defense in the financial arena I would have also said no."
Reed originally from Nashville Tenn. moved to Boston with her husband in the late 1970s and applied for a job at the Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She had experience as a city planner and wanted to know what jobs were available for her. Instead the school personnel office asked her to take a typing test which she failed.
Afterward the office put Reed in touch with an assistant dean who was looking for a staff assistant and she got the job. "It turned out we were both making pests out of ourselves and they thought they'd put us together " she said.
A year later she became the registrar and secretary of admissions at the Kennedy School of Government and "had great pleasure in calling back the personnel officer" who had suggested the typing test to tell him of her new job. As registrar Reed installed the first computerized student transcript system at Harvard a process which until then had been done entirely by hand.
While she was working in the registrar's office she was admitted to the Kennedy School of Government - she promises she did not admit herself - and received her degree in 1981. She then went to work at the Naval Sea Systems Command eventually landing in the office of the comptroller. She moved to the USDA in 1993 as the deputy assistant secretary for administration.
"There is no better place in the federal government to understand how it works than in a budget office " she said. "You learn about how money moves how programs are born and the whole life cycle of programs." This hands-on experience should serve her well in her role as CIO where program and budget management issues come together.
"I don't want to minimize the importance of understanding the technical capabilities and how you can use the technology to further your program objectives but I don't know any CIOs in the federal government who are running systems now " Reed said. "We are building the bridges into the program community so that the right kind of information is provided to the right people at the right time to make the right investment and management decisions."
Managing the pace of change is another challenge Reed is facing as CIO. "In some ways it's my job to make people feel uncomfortable because we need to change " she said. "But it's clearly part of my job to do everything humanly possible to help people through the change."
Reed stressed communication as a key ingredient to getting employees acclimated to change. "You need to tell people what you're going to do tell them what you're doing tell them what you did then start all over " she said. "You need to get people to step up to their new responsibilities but you also need to give them the tools they need to do it."
Since coming on board as CIO a year ago Reed has faced many tough issues. She created an information resources management modernization plan dissolved the InfoShare program placed a moratorium on information technology purchases and defended the award of the Federal Aviation Administration's $250 million Integrated Computing Environment-Mainframe and Networking contract to the USDA.
And her work is not over. "We are both blessed and challenged to have congressional committees who believe how the department manages technology is critical to our future " she said. "That attention has given us a number of opportunities to step up to the plate and begin to demonstrate that we can manage in a different way."
Despite the challenges Reed is positive about the future of the department and public service. "I think that when I get discouraged [it] will be the time to go and I haven't reached that time " she said. "I am truly excited about what we are doing and the potential we have in this department. I think we can make a tremendous change that would be of great benefit. The trick is to make that all happen."