USDA's National Finance Center shuts down in face of Katrina

The Agriculture Department's National Finance Center completed its payroll processing for 500,000 federal employees Sunday just hours before shutting down operations and fleeing New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina crept closer. Today is payday for those federal workers, an Agriculture spokesman said.

Center staff have taken the magnetic tapes containing the most recent data to its disaster recovery site in Philadelphia, where NFC will be able to operate if it is unable to return to New Orleans soon, said Agriculture spokesman Ed Lloyd.

'At this point, we're just monitoring the situation, and when that will be will be when we have a better determination of what kind of damage may or may not have occurred,' he said. NFC is located east of downtown New Orleans at a NASA facility.

NFC provides administrative, financial and record-keeping services and data center technology support for some Agriculture bureaus and non-Agriculture agency customers.

NFC currently has a subscription service for disaster recovery with SunGard Data Systems Inc. of Wayne, Pa. The tape-based process, which is updated weekly, entails shipping tapes and bringing a skeletal staff to the alternate facility to set up operations.

By next June, Agriculture plans to move NFC's data center equipment and co-locate it at the department's National IT Center in Kansas City, Mo. NFC will remotely manage its data center from New Orleans and convert its New Orleans center to a backup and disaster recovery operation. This plan will remove NFC's physical assets used in daily operations from the path of frequent hurricanes Much of NFC's financial data already resides at the Kansas City data center, Lloyd said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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