Agriculture CIO Gets Keys to IT

WASHINGTON (03/21/2000) - In a move designed to improve management of the U.S.

Department of Agriculture's modernization program, the department's chief information officer has been given direct responsibility for the success of key IT modernization programs.

No longer does Joseph Leo, CIO at the USDA, have a purely oversight role in how the department deploys information technology systems to support its Service Center Modernization Initiative. He is now directly responsible for managing the initiative's IT investments.

The USDA's struggling Service Center Modernization Initiative will combine the program services of the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Rural Development mission areas. These county-based agencies will deliver about $55 billion in farm, conservation and rural development programs and services this fiscal year. The Common Computing Environment is a cornerstone of the modernization program. Through CCE, the department will field a common set of desktop computers, applications and other technologies to its service centers nationwide. These service centers will provide farmers with one-stop shopping for services such as farm loan applications. Farmers traditionally had to visit three agencies for assistance.

Leo will have responsibility for CCE planning and acquisition; the interoperability lab in Beltsville, Md.; and other modernization initiatives.

"The Service Center Modernization Initiative is among the secretary's highest priorities," Leo said last week at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing.

Leo also underscored the importance of receiving full fiscal 2001 funding for modernization. The USDA asked for $75 million to continue installing the CCE and another $6.6 million for IT security.

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