Agriculture will cut jobs to pay for IT upgrades

A memo that Secretary Dan Glickman sent to agency chiefs this month gives a general
outline. Agriculture wants to eliminate more than 1,300 jobs over the next five years.
Savings to USDA could be as high as $450 million, Glickman said.

Some of the money Agriculture saves will be applied to computer upgrades and
modernization efforts. Chief information officer Anne Thomson Reed is one of two people
selected to head the streamlining effort.

she is creating has not yet discussed the plan with a team of USDA employees. Glickman
said in his memo that Reed has full authority for information technology decisions related
to the streamlining effort.

Assistant secretary for administration Pearlie Reed will be in charge of other
management decisions, the memo said.

The bulk of the cuts affect three USDA agencies:

Glickman's decision will force further consolidations within the three agencies. USDA
previously had created the agencies by merging operations that had supported farm programs
for almost half a century.

Likewise, the department has been working for almost five years on refining its field
office operations.

Although responsibility for making the cuts has been given to Anne Reed and Pearlie
Reed, USDA agency chiefs will still be responsible for program decisions. Glickman said
full responsibility for all regional activities will be transferred back to agency heads
once the cuts and consolidations are made.

Although Glickman did not discuss specific IT plans in his memo, the secretary said
that all streamlining decisions must comply with decisions he will make after reviewing
Anne Reed's assessment of USDA's IT problems.

Agriculture is under a self-imposed moratorium on IT purchases until the department can
come up with a plan to modernize its aging and often incompatible networks.

Anne Reed said she could not discuss specific IT plans because no work on the project
has begun.

Agriculture officials said the department would offer bonuses and other incentives to
employees to avoid layoffs. Glickman's plan comes as Agriculture has begun to eliminate
11,000 jobs over the next four years to cut costs.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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