GAO Comments on the Impact of the USDA Reorganization on Nutrition

CED-81-150: Published: Aug 17, 1981. Publicly Released: Aug 17, 1981.

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GAO was requested to comment on the June 1981 reorganization of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its impact on nutrition. USDA is in the process of implementing the reorganization and identifying, addressing, and resolving the management and policy problems that occur with reorganization. In addition, details of the USDA nutrition policies have not been fully formulated. As a result, the comments were based primarily on what USDA officials told GAO and on the opinions of professionals from the nutrition community.

The USDA reorganization: (1) separates some of the USDA nutrition information functions from its nutrition research functions; and (2) decentralizes its human nutrition research activities by transferring nutrition research activities from its former, high-level, separate-agency status to one of the component research programs of the Agricultural Research Service. According to the Secretary of Agriculture, the USDA restructuring was intended to: (1) increase the efficiency of USDA without additional cost or increase in personnel; (2) focus direction of the agencies along lines of functional responsibility; and (3) have a positive impact on program effectiveness. Major concerns expressed by individuals both inside and outside USDA were: (1) whether nutrition will be less visible and deemphasized; (2) how nutrition issues will be coordinated and integrated; (3) whether nutrition information policies, programs, and strategies will be adversely affected; and (4) whether nutrition research will continue to be supported under its new decentralized setup.

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