Help is on the way

USDA training program preps tech employees for modernization changes

Imagine being the lone Agriculture Department employee in a remote area of Montana when your computer goes on the blink. There is no technical manual available that can explain how to fix it and no replacement part in the next room.

Not to worry, according to the USDA. Help is on the way.

That help is coming in the form of USDA help-desk staff members who will be taught how to troubleshoot problems on Microsoft Corp. Windows 2000, a key component of the Common Computing Environment (CCE), the Web-based program that is expected to bring the latest technology to farmers and USDA workers in the field.

The USDA has awarded a $1.4 million contract to SI International, a McLean, Va.-based company, to support its transition to CCE, which will provide standard computer systems nationwide for one of the largest federal agencies.

SI International and its Microsoft- certified teachers will begin training 540 help-desk workers and local-area network administrators on Sept. 9. The goal is to deliver instructor-led classes to every state in the care and maintenance of Windows 2000 Server, Active Directory, Exchange 2000 Server and Enterprise Management environment.

The training will give USDA staff members the skills to support the department's service centers. Once in operation, the service centers will make it easier to share information and deliver services more efficiently.

"There is a big difference between the audience for this class and the audiences using desktop software," said Cathie McMahon, executive vice president for SI learning. "These are the technical folks solving technical problems. They are the people who will manage the infrastructure [and] who will require that security operate properly."

Nevertheless, the modernization task is no small undertaking. USDA officials have been working hard to create CCE, a move that will provide a single face to consumers for their agriculture needs.

"It's a big place," said Anne Reed, former chief information officer at the USDA. "There are a lot of offices in just about every county in the United States. On the one hand, it's a single face for the client. On the other hand, you want to eliminate duplicate entries. When you capture information once, you don't want three, four or five [USDA] agencies to recapture the same information."

Bill Gardner, the USDA's senior policy adviser for service center implementation, said that CCE would be 90 percent complete by the end of September. The network services have been installed in field offices, and various features, such as management tools and e-mail, are being turned on.

"As we turn those features on, people will be trained on how to manage and use them," Gardner said.

The USDA also has started a major telecommunications upgrade to support Web applications and e-government initiatives. In the next year, the department's field offices will have 24 times the telecom capacity that they have today. Other technologies still to come include Global Positioning System capabilities, personal digital assistants and other management tools.

SI International has been thriving in the federal marketplace. In 2001, its revenues were $146 million, mostly from federal contracts. And its imprint can be seen on a host of other government contracts, including training staff at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 60 days and training more than 20,000 employees at the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"We've been very successful in delivering customized training that meets the needs of specific customers," said Ben Kirson, SI International's manager of technical training.

Kirson said it is imperative to standardize all of the USDA's hardware and software throughout the country quickly to "correspond to the rollout" of the new system.

"Our customers want students and staff after training to go back to their offices and perform their day-to-day duties," Kirson said. "You can't do that without planning a couple of months ahead of time and designing the courseware accordingly."

***

Seeds of change

The Common Computing Environment encompasses approximately 35,000 workstations, 8,000 printers and 2,700 network servers across 3,500 Agriculture Department offices. The $1.4 million contract the USDA awarded to SI International is the latest move in the plan to modernize the agency's computer systems.

"I think the most exciting thing is to continue to see the USDA and their Web-based applications," said Warren Clark, an agribusiness consultant in Chicago. "This $1.4 million commitment to training underscores the fact that the very producers they are serving are using computers and the Internet in ever increasing numbers."

Among the 200,000 farmers earning the top revenues in the United States, 85 percent own computers and 65 percent are connected to the Internet, according to Clark.

NEXT STORY: Retiring SSG director hails AFITC

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.