Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Comprehensive Information Management System

FSA put out a notice describing the Comprehensive Information Management System (CIMS), not to be confused with SCIMS.  CIMS tries to accomplish what we played with in 1992--reconciling data between FCIC/RMA and FSA data.  The farmer who has crop insurance ends up reporting her crops and acreages twice.  Because the programs differ, there are rational differences in the data.  Because the history of the programs and agencies differs, there are historical differences in the data.  A farmer, and her representatives in Congress, are naturally not eager to understand the differences.  The dual system opens the way for confusion and fraud.  One way to solve it would be to consolidate the programs. Another way to solve it would be to consolidate the IT systems. Both options have the advantage of simplicity, at least in concept, as in KISS. But politics and bureaucracy rule out both.

The worst solution is the one Congress mandated--a rear-end process copying the FCIC/RMA and FSA data into one place so the data can be matched and compared.  (I'm sure I'm unfair to CIMS--no doubt the process of creating it uncovered some places where the data elements themselves could be tweaked for compatibility.)  I say "worst", because the solution probably doesn't simplify anything for the farmer, nor does it put in place any checks to keep the farmer from misreporting.  All it does is enable FSA bureaucrats to identify conflicts, and possibly fraud.  That's better than nothing, so progress is being made. It remains to be seen how well the process will work in 2010.

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