Bill would give USDA CIO greater IT spending latitude

A bill that would give Agriculture Department chief information officer Anne Thompson Reed more authority over how the department spends its $1.2 billion in information technology funding has cleared its first hurdle.

Today the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Department Operations, Nutrition and Foreign Agriculture reported H.R. 3280 to the full committee. The bill, known as the USDA Year 2000 Compliance Enhancement Act, was introduced by subcommittee chairman Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) last week.

The bill would transfer at least 4 percent of what each USDA bureau or agency spends on information resources every year to the control of the CIO, who must use the money to create a single, departmentwide information system and to meet the Office of Management and Budget's Year 2000 compliance requirements.

The bill is an effort to improve the management of USDA systems by centralizing control and responsibility for them under the CIO. Currently, each component agency is responsible for its own IT budget and procurement—- a situation that has spawned different systems that cannot talk to each other.

"The history of information technology at the USDA has been a disaster," said Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) at the hearing. "I am here to lend my full support to H.R. 3280. This legislation aims to help USDA get its information technology house in order to satisfactorily deal with the Year 2000 problem."

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