WASHINGTON, D.C. - Acting to help the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prepare for the "Year 2000 Problem" and to end years of wasteful USDA spending on Information Technology (IT), the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Nutrition, and Foreign Agriculture today unanimously passed Chairman Goodlatte's (R-VA) "USDA Year 2000 Compliance Enhancement Act", granting the USDA's Chief Information Officer the additional resources and authority she needs to guide Department-wide IT policy.
Goodlatte's USDA Year 2000 Compliance Enhancement Act (H.R. 3280) - which cleared subcommittee today by a unanimous voice vote - grants the USDA's Chief Information Officer (CIO) the authority to shape Department-wide IT policy, redirects a portion of the USDA's IT budget to the CIO's office, and establishes a liaison between the USDA's CIO and the USDA's numerous agency information officers. In addition, the bill orders the CIO to use her new-found resources to prepare the USDA for the "Year 2000 problem."
The USDA spends more than $1 billion annually on IT - or $2.7 million daily. Over the last ten years, the USDA has spent $8 billion on IT; but according to a recent General Accounting Office report, the Department "has not effectively planned or managed these IT investments and, as a result, has wasted millions of dollars." Indeed, the personnel costs of USDA's 6,200 IT employees account for 30% of USDA's IT expenditures.
"Despite spending more than $8 billion on technology purchases, the USDA is unprepared to deal with the Year 2000 problem. The clock is ticking - the USDA now has less than two years to get its act together. In the absence of strong agency leadership, Congress has a duty to ensure that after January 1, 2000, farmers will still be able to get help at their local Farm Service Agency offices. My bill gets us moving in the right direction without spending any new money," said Goodlatte.
"It's unconscionable that at a time when the beneficiaries of USDA's many programs and functions - from farmers to food stamp recipients - are being asked to tighten their belts and accept less, the USDA continues to waste millions of dollars on poorly-planned technology purchases. As a start, my legislation will help the Department use common sense when it spends taxpayer funds on expensive items such as computers and telecommunications equipment," said Goodlatte.
"The history of Information Technology at the USDA has been a disaster. I fear that without congressional guidance the Department will be unable to deal with the 60% of its systems that are unprepared for the Year 2000 problem. Congressman Goodlatte and I introduced the USDA Year 2000 Compliance Enhancement Act so that the USDA can get its Information Technology house in order before farmers and ranchers feel the pinch of years of USDA waste," said Congressman Tom Latham (R-IA), member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development.
Goodlatte, whose subcommittee has jurisdiction over USDA's internal operations, represents Virginia's Sixth Congressional District, which includes Roanoke, Lynchburg, and the Shenandoah Valley.