USDA furthers modernization with hardware buys

The Agriculture Department has bought more than 26,000 desktop and notebook PCs since July from Gateway Inc., one of three vendors supplying hardware to the department for its infrastructure modernization.

This is USDA's fifth hardware purchase since 1998, when it began buying new PCs from Dell Corp., Gateway and Hewlett-Packard Corp. for the Common Computing Environment project.

This summer, USDA spent $24 million for 5,532 Gateway 450E series notebooks and docking stations, 14,802 midrange E-series desktop PCs and 5,912 high-end E-series desktop PCs.

The machines, 160 of which must still be delivered, include a four-year warranty. They come preinstalled with USDA images and Microsoft Windows and Office XP.

The agency has a third option to buy more computers from Gateway in December, but that's contingent on fiscal 2004 congressional funding that's already been slashed by more than a third by House lawmakers, said Scott Snover, CCE project manager.

Funding shortfalls will leave the department relying on older systems, Snover said. 'The systems we purchased in 1999 are slated for replacement in 2004,' he said. 'We'd end up having to live with the machines we bought in 1999 for another year.'

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