Senate Appropriations funds more Ag IT modernization

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved more funding for Agriculture Department IT projects than last year. It was part of $84 billion in fiscal 2005 spending for Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and other related agencies passed earlier this week.

Among the provisions, the committee recommended $17.6 million for the Agriculture CIO's office, $2.2 million more than for the current fiscal year, which closes Sept. 30. The funding includes $2 million for program initiatives such as IT system certification and accreditation to fulfill federal security requirements.

The Service Center Modernization initiative, which has been working to restructure county field offices and to modernize and integrate business approaches, would receive $125.6 million, $7 million more than the previous year. It replaces the legacy information systems with a modern Common Computing Environment that improves information sharing, customer service and staff efficiencies.

The committee said it was concerned that counties have been slow in certifying data, which is required before implementing the Geographical Information System, and urged the department to place a high priority on completing this task.

Agriculture would also receive $33.2 million for a National Animal Identification system to expand its program to test and track cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease.

Lawmakers also directed Agriculture to investigate expanding the existing e-payroll program under the department's National Finance Center to include other functions, such as automated data processing and servicing other agencies.

The National Finance Center has been a successful fee-for-service public/private partnership, which stretches federal investment while sharing the risks of systems modernization. Agriculture must provide a feasibility report on the proposal by March 1.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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