Leo will succeed Reed as Agriculture's CIO

Leo will succeed Reed as Agriculture's CIO

By Thomas R. Temin
GCN Staff

Agriculture secretary Dan Glickman has named Joseph Leo, a 15-year veteran of the department, as chief information officer.

Leo will succeed Anne F. Thomson Reed when she retires Feb. 1. Leo is currently acting executive director of the Agriculture Department's Support Services Bureau, a position he took on last year.

The bureau is building the Common Computing Environment to support three USDA agencies: Rural Development, Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Congress has prohibited USDA from combining the three agencies' computing infrastructures. But Leo said one of his priorities will be to 'convince Congress we know what we're doing and that we have a good plan, then roll it out.'

The three agencies employ a total of 35,000 people throughout the world in 2,500 offices and use some 25,000 PCs.

Another looming issue, he said, is preparing a plan for the department's telecommunications, an effort in which deputy CIO Ira Hobbs has already made progress.

'In my view, we've got to provide a great utility service,' Leo said. 'But I have some work to do to understand that big puppy.'

Reed praised Leo's work at the Food and Nutrition Service, where he has been called the father of electronic benefits transfer. He has been FNS' deputy administrator for management at the service since 1984.

Leo, as Reed did before him, must become CIO as a political appointee, which will effectively end his 32 years as a government careerist. He acknowledged that both Glickman and his appointees would likely be gone in a year. But USDA's IT challenges'accompanied as they are with ongoing scrutiny from Congress'make the CIO job attractive nonetheless, he said.

'A lot can be done in a year. I work pretty hard,' Leo said. 'I hope that in a year I can make a difference.'

Before Agriculture, Leo worked at the Transportation Department. An Army veteran, he has a bachelor's degree from Western Illinois University and a master's in science policy from Purdue University. Since 1995, he has been a member of the National Computer System Security and Privacy Advisory Board.

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