USDA's Reed considers her next step

USDA's Reed considers her next step

Anne F. Thomson Reed expects no date code problems and credits 'the right kind of management attention.'

Although she will leave the CIO post and government, she wants to work in public-service arena

By Christopher J. Dorobek and Frank Tiboni
GCN Staff

When Anne F. Thomson Reed steps down as the Agriculture Department's chief information officer on Feb. 1, she expects to still have some involvement with the public sector'but just what that role would be is unclear.

'I'm still committed to public service, but there are a lot of ways to do this,' Reed said. 'There are excellent companies and nonprofits out there.'

Reed earlier this month informed Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman of her plan to leave the CIO post. Glickman's office has begun looking for her replacement, she said.

'I just think it was time for me to make a change,' said Reed, who has been CIO since August 1996.

She acknowledged some frustration at having her hands tied by the allocation of resources and at having little flexibility across programs, which has made corporate planning difficult.

But Reed said she feels good about the team she will leave behind at USDA, which includes deputy CIO Ira Hobbs and telecommunications chief Keith Jackson.

Reed cited the Service Center Initiative, through which the department is re-engineering its business processes and developing the Common Computing Environment for 2,500 service centers nationwide, as one of her major accomplishments.

USDA has installed 15,000 of a planned 17,000 PCs and notebooks for the project. The systems include 400-MHz Compaq Deskpro EP Pentium II PCs with 64M of RAM, 6.4G hard drives and Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, and 266-MHz Dell Latitude CPi Pentium II notebooks with 64M of RAM, 4.3G hard drives and NT 4.0 [GCN, Sept. 27, Page 22].

Reed said she decided to stay at the department until February to see USDA through the year 2000 transition. She expects no problems to arise because of date code errors.

Managed right

'We've had the right kind of management attention across the department,' Reed said. 'Thanks to the program, we now have the best inventory of our systems and what architecture we can leverage.'

Reed also spoke highly of the CIO Council, on which she served last year as co-chairwoman of the Interoperability Committee.

'It was a real place where you could work with your colleagues,' she said.

Alan P. Balutis, the Commerce Department's deputy CIO and co-chairman of the CIO Council's Outreach Committee, said Reed is 'not only one of the old-timers, but she's one of the best. When they're talking about information technology talent, she is always at the top of the list.'

Before joining USDA in 1993, Reed spent 12 years in management positions in the Navy. Her Navy career followed a four-year stint in the administration office of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Her interest in public service, however, began in the mid-1970s when she worked as a community planner for the City Planning Commission in Nashville, Tenn.

Reed has a bachelor's degree from Goucher College in Baltimore and a master's degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Short stays

Reed's departure is part of a trend that includes shorter tenures for federal CIOs, Balutis said. He said the length of service of many government CIOs is about the same as that of private-sector CIOs. GartnerGroup Inc. of Stamford, Conn., has reported that most industry CIOs stay on the job three years.

'One of the things we will do on the council this year is look at that issue,' Balutis said.

The council needs to determine whether the turnover rate is something government ought to be concerned about or whether it dovetails with agencies' increasing use of industry practices, he said.

The CIO Council has been focusing on IT work force problems generally and is expected to recommend that the National Academy of Public Administration study how salaries affect federal recruitment and retention efforts.


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