Emergency funds will make the difference for Rural Development

Emergency year 2000 funds will help the Rural Development Agency buy the new desktop
and notebook PCs it needs to process single-family housing loans.

The Agriculture Department agency uses software created and maintained by USDA’s
National Finance Center to process loans through its Single-Family Housing Program in St.
Louis. But NFC had to upgrade the software and make it year 2000-ready, said Joe Perez,
Rural Development’s chief information officer.

“Rural Development’s current PCs did not have the capacity to run the
upgraded software, so we’ll have to buy new ones,” USDA chief information
officer Anne Thomson Reed said.

Agriculture will give the largest allocation of the $28.7 million it received earlier
this month from Congress’ emergency supplemental year 2000 funds to upgrade Rural
Development’s hardware and software, Reed said.

NFC’s new software programs, which handle leverage loans and credit reports for
Rural Development, require Microsoft Windows 95. The agency’s computers were running
Windows 3.11, Perez said. “The new software needed to process all the applications
requires more capacity and hard disk space than our current models,” he said.

Rural Development will receive $8.5 million to buy Compaq DeskPro EP desktop PCs and
Dell Computer Corp. Latitude CPi notebook PCs. The agency will also upgrade from Windows
3.11 to Windows NT 4.0, Perez said.

Rural Development this month presented a management plan to Agriculture that outlined
an implementation strategy. The agency wants to retire its computers, many of them
Hewlett-Packard Co. Vectras, by March or April, Perez said.

Rural Development will buy Compaq and Dell PCs through four contracts Agriculture
awarded under Phase 1 of the department’s Common Computing Environment for the
Service Center Program, Reed said.

Through the CCE program, the department wants to create an overarching systems
infrastructure serving users at 3,100 sites. The department plans to complete the $3
billion program by 2011.  


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