Department of Agriculture:

Restructuring Will Impact Farm Service Agencies' Automation Plans and Programs

T-IMTEC-92-21: Published: Jun 3, 1992. Publicly Released: Jun 3, 1992.

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GAO discussed the effects that proposed restructuring of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) would have on the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service's, the Farmers Home Administration's (FmHA), the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation's, and the Soil Conservation Service's information technology plans. GAO noted that: (1) since fiscal year (FY) 1985, FmHA has spent over $200 million to automate its field office operations, but has not developed the software needed to compile consistent, reliable management information for program managers in FmHA headquarters; (2) the agencies independently acquire computer equipment and information systems, and developed data definitions that were not consistent, and as a result, farm service agencies can not easily share information; (3) since the agencies' databases are not integrated, some agencies must maintain redundant data, increasing the time and paper work burden as well as increasing the risk of errors; (4) USDA has been conducting pilot tests on eight projects to improve its information technology environment to better serve its clients and to improve efficiency; and (5) streamlining the USDA field structure to save federal resources will have implications for several information technology modernization efforts that the farm service agencies are planning. GAO believes that USDA needs to develop long-range business and strategic information technology plans to reflect its new organizational structure and ways of doing business.

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