U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Revitalizing Structure, Systems, and Strategies

RCED-91-168: Published: Sep 3, 1991. Publicly Released: Sep 3, 1991.

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GAO presented its overall observations on the revitalization of the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) structure, systems, and strategies.

GAO found that: (1) the USDA organizational structure remains essentially unchanged since the 1930s and is not responsive to the new challenges facing it; (2) organizational mechanisms are needed to coordinate and integrate diverse USDA responsibilities in such cross-cutting issues as food safety, water quality, and marketing; (3) information, financial, and human resources management systems need strategic planning to ensure that weaknesses are addressed in all agencies and that the systems operate as a unit; (4) although only 1 in 50 Americans today lives on a farm and advances in communications, computers, and transportation operations lessen the need for contact with multiple farm agencies, USDA continues to maintain an extensive local presence and some county officials spend more on overhead expenses than they give out in program benefits; (5) stronger departmental leadership is needed if USDA information, financial, and human resources systems are to keep pace with increasingly complex responsibilities and changing socioeconomic conditions; (6) USDA financial management systems are not providing accurate information for controlling expenditures and financial reports are not producing reliable information for making decisions; (7) institutionalization of changes would allow proposed plans to become reality throughout USDA by building them into routine processes; (8) strong and continuing congressional support and oversight is needed to bring about and sustain many of the fundamental changes required to revitalize and streamline USDA management systems and structure; and (9) if USDA does not respond to the new challenges, other countries and industries more responsive to customers' needs will successfully capture consumer markets.

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