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FCW Insider: Concerns still simmer at USDA

USDA CIO/CFO Chuck Christopherson's letter to his troops seeking to quell concerns hasn't worked all that well yet, at least according to the e-mail and calls I've been getting. I've been getting all sorts of comments about what's going on at USDA coming from many different places and many different viewpoints. But there is still an underlying concern about what's going on at the Agriculture Department's CIO and CFO organization.Just by coincidence, the Senate Agricultural Committee is scheduled to have a nomination hearing this afternoon for former North Dakota Governor Edward Schafer to be the new Agriculture Secretary. I'd be surprised if Schafter is asked about the upheaval within the CIO and CFO organization, but... it could happen.

Meanwhile, the talk around the halls of USDA is a letter apparently from an "anonymous USDA employee" to Acting Secretary Chuck Conner asking him to focus on the CIO/CFO organization. The letter apparently goes through the number of people who have left both USDA's CIO organization and its CFO organization -- and even suggests others are trying to leave. Despite CIO/CFO Charles Christopherson's note to staff on Tuesday, there still seems to be a good deal of anxiousness there on Independence Avenue.

FCW's Mary Mosquera is scheduled to talk to Christopherson early next week about why the level of nervousness seems to be running so high within the organization and how USDA is going to manage through the vacancies.

The USDA situation is starting to buzz around industry circles too. The people who have left USDA, such as Suda, Niedermayer, Jerry Williams -- these people have established relationships in industry. In many ways, served as the face of USDA to industry. One senior industry person told me that he didn't know Christopherson. He said that he met him at a industry panel and he said that he was impressed with Christopherson. "He was very personable, spoke well and participated fully in the discussion," this person said.

This person, however, is not a big fan of Six Sigma, which Christopherson says will help USDA manage through the personnel challenges. One industry person's reaction: "As for Six Sigma as a qualification test of any sort for promotion that’s process-oriented" ... well, let's just say... he is not impressed with Six Sigma.

 Just my suggestion, but based on the e-mail and calls I'm getting on this subject, people are very concerned about what is going on within USDA's CIO and CFO organizations and they haven't been calmed by this week's memo.

I hate to keep saying 'stay tuned,' but this seems to be evolving day to day, and nothing has really happened that would calm the concerns.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Jan 24, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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