Monday, July 13, 2015

House Ag Appropriations

From the House appropriations ag subcommittee;

Here's the committee report on MIDAS:

"Information Technology Waste

.—GAO and USDA’s OIG have issued reports that highlight poor program performance in the past and uncertainty regarding USDA’s capacity to effectively manage IT acquisitions in the future. Auditors found that the Secretary halted further development on the MIDAS program after spending almost $500 million for nearly a decade on planning and development of this critical system. This investment of time and limited resources has resulted in the delivery of about one-fifth of the functionality intended for twice the projected cost. While the Secretary has highlighted saving hundreds of millions of dollars on IT, the Committee notes that MIDAS is a prime example of government waste and inefficiency. MIDAS is still expected to cost another $330 million over the lifecycle of the project, yet the system will have severely reduced capacity. The total cost will equal almost three times the original projections.

GAO noted that problems with MIDAS were due to the lack of implementation of USDA and Farm Service Agency (FSA) program management policies and best practices covering key disciplines such as requirements for development and management, project planning and monitoring, system testing, and executive-level governance. Following project stoppage, the Department has been exploring other options—at an additional cost to taxpayers and time spent on these modernization efforts—to provide the functionality that USDA had promised Congress and the agricultural community, including a modernized acreage reporting system and an online office for American farmers and ranchers to access. Given the lack of IT leadership demonstrated by the Secretary on the MIDAS investment, the Committee remains concerned as to whether the Department will be any more successful with IT acquisition activities moving forward than it was in the past with MIDAS. The Committee includes statutory language that places spending controls on both MIDAS and other IT acquisitions.


—FSA’s management of certain IT projects has produced increased costs, bloated budgets, and inaccurate budget estimates. These projects include the MIDAS program and increased or inaccurate charges from the National Information Technology Center, for which costs have tripled since fiscal year 2014. The agreement includes statutory language that allows FSA to release funds for farm program delivery IT projects only after review by the GAO and approval by the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate. The roadmap submitted by FSA in fiscal year 2015 was the first step to bringing accountability and guidance to almost a decade of mismanagement. In this regard, the GAO and the OIG are recommending that FSA establish a plan to guide the agency in adopting recognized best practices and in following agency policy. The GAO also recommends that the agency adhere to specific practices within key management disciplines before proceeding with further system development. FSA is directed to continue quarterly briefings in writing for the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate regarding all IT projects and activities related to farm program delivery.

And an "attaboy" for NRCS:

The Committee commends NRCS for its organizational realignment of administrative functions and appreciates the savings this will generate. NRCS has worked to become a more efficient, accountable organization, and the Committee encourages NRCS to work with other agencies within USDA to do the same

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