U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Overhauling the Farm Agencies' Field Structure

T-RCED-92-87: Published: Jul 30, 1992. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 1992.

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GAO discussed its general management review of the Department of Agriculture (USDA), focusing on: (1) the need for USDA to better respond to the challenges of rapidly changing world markets; (2) streamlining the existing USDA field structure; and (3) USDA efforts to respond to GAO recommendations. GAO noted that: (1) increased responsibilities in nutrition, international trade, and environmental issues have greatly diversified the USDA client base over the years, yet USDA structure and management practices have remained largely unchanged since its inception; (2) USDA does not have comprehensive policies, several USDA agencies lack strategic marketing plans, and each operates under a different philosophy; (3) many opportunities exist within the USDA field delivery structure to save money and better serve clients through streamlining; (4) the cost of county office operations is only one factor to consider in streamlining the field structure, and other criteria may be appropriate for determining the need for local offices in low-activity areas; (5) because the USDA organizational structure is large and decentralized, the operational costs for information systems, over the next 5 years, will account for almost $2 billion; and (6) changes will require strong leadership and a long-term commitment, but USDA has begun to take some actions to address past GAO recommendations.

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