USDA plans consolidation

Fiscal 2002 budget

The Bush administration's fiscal 2002 budget proposal says it is becoming too expensive to maintain the Agriculture Department's existing process of delivering benefits.

So the USDA is proposing to merge the information technology staffs of three of its bureaus—the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Rural Development—part an overall effort to create a common computing environment.

The effort comes after USDA attempted to create a support services bureau that would have combined the administration functions of the three agencies. Congress rejected that concept.

At the time, USDA said that the support services bureau would provide administrative support for IT, financial management, human resources, civil rights and management services to county-based offices. A chief information officer would have headed a common IT shop and a chief administrative officer would have led the administrative policy and support branch.

USDA spokesman Steve Dewhurst acknowledged that the effort is a scaled down version of that plan.

The 2002 budget request, released Monday, also seeks $59 million to complete the agency's Common Computing Environment project. The CCE plan would create an IT platform to support telecommunications, automation and administrative applications across the Farm Service Agency, the National Resources Conservation Service and Rural Development.

"The CCE will reduce the paperwork burden by allowing for electronic filing of information from farmers and other USDA customers," the budget says.

Under the Freedom to E-File Act, USDA must make forms accessible electronically by 2003.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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