Browsing: Agriculture

Government shutdown begins


The closing of a vast swath of government operations is now under way as this Office of Management and Budget memo makes clear. The U.S. Agriculture Department, meanwhile, has wasted no time taking down its website. The Office of Personnel Management’s site, however, is still live, with a page with guidance on everything you probably never wanted to know about employee furloughs.

Agriculture Department headquarters buildings to reopen Tuesday


Several U.S. Agriculture Department headquarters buildings closed by a fire Monday will reopen Tuesday, according to information posted on the agency’s web site.  The buildings include the Jamie L. Whitten Building, the Reporters Building, and the South Building, the department said. While the web posting does not mention the Cotton Annex, also closed today, that facility will be reopening as well, USDA spokesman Justin DeJong indicated in an email. “All employees are to report in accordance with their established tour of duty.” according to the web post. Some 6,300 USDA workers are on administrative leave today, DeJong said earlier. …

Fire closes USDA headquarters today


The U.S. Agriculture Department’s headquarters off the National Mall is closed today because of a fire in an adjoining structure, a spokesman said this morning.  Some 6,300 employees are on administrative leave. A small electric in the complex’s South Building occurred during routine maintenance early this morning, Justin DeJong said in an email. Firefighters responded, he said, and Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco) shut off electricity. Besides the South Building, the Jamie L. Whitten Building, which houses USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s office, and the Cotton Annex are closed, DeJong said, adding later that employees at the Reporters Building have also…

Agriculture CIO heads to consulting firm Accenture


Chris Smith will resign from his position as chief information officer at the Agriculture Department next month for an executive role at technology consulting firm Accenture Federal Services, the company announced Tuesday. Smith will begin his new role as the company’s chief technology and innovation officer on April 9, according to Accenture. He will be responsible for developing the technology agenda for Accenture’s federal business and managing the company’s federal service offerings in the areas of cloud computing, big data, logistics and supply chain and cost reduction.   Smith has served as Agriculture’s CIO since 2009. Under his leadership the department migrated…

White House touting reduction in improper payments


There’s some apparent good news coming from the White House this afternoon on the improper payment front, according to a news advisory. At 2:30 p.m., Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew and three other top administration figures are holding a conference call “to discuss the administration’s progress cutting wasteful improper payments by nearly $18 billion’’ the advisory says. FedLine had asked about this last week and was told the data was being finalized. Presumably these are figures for fiscal 2011 versus fiscal 2010. Not clear is whether the nearly $18 billion figure is a cut in absolute terms…

Agencies subpoenaed to testify on small business leadership


House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves today issued subpoenas to four federal agencies seeking answers for why they refuse to put senior leadership in charge of small business contracting activities, a committee spokesman said. The Treasury, State, Justice and Agriculture departments have said they believe they are in compliance with the spirit of  a law that requires agencies to put their Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization in direct contact with the agency’s secretary or deputy secretary. Each agency is required to have an Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) under the Small Business Act to ensure contracts…

Fiddlin' Foresters axed from federal web domain


The Fiddlin’ Foresters may live on, but their web site’s apparently defunct. Monday morning, the U.S. Forest Service string band found itself in the unenviable position of being panned by President Obama. Not for its music, but for a web site that Obama held up as an example of a taxpayer-funded Internet presence in urgent need of pruning. “Did you know that the federal government pays for a web site devoted to a folk music ensemble made up of forest rangers?” Obama asked in a video posted on the White House’s own site. The video then features a screen shot of…

Shirley Sherrod turns down USDA job offer


Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department employee who got caught in a ginned-up racial controversy last month, just said she will not accept another position at her old department. Sherrod lost her job after conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart posted a heavily edited video that appeared to show her bragging about turning down a white farmer because of his race. But once the full video surfaced — showing she was actually talking about the importance of moving beyond race when dealing with others — almost everyone from the White House to the NAACP realized they had gone off half-cocked. Agriculture Secretary Tom…

Shirley Sherrod responsible for global warming too?


The Daily Show returned from vacation last night and weighed in on the Shirley Sherrod foofaraw. Jon Stewart, as always, gave the whole absurd episode the gravitas it required by editing the video of her speech to make it look like she was admitting to ruining the environment (the gold-plated Air Force One and alpaca fighting ring were also particularly nice touches). Stephen Colbert then took it one step further by splicing Mel Gibson’s latest racist and very NSFW rant into a quote from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. But why should Stewart, Colbert and Andrew Breitbart have all…

Sherrod offered job back at USDA


USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack just said that he has apologized to Shirley Sherrod and offered her a civil rights job at the agency. CNN reports Sherrod has not yet decided whether she will accept. Vilsack will also meet with the Congressional Black Caucus later today in his effort to rein in this rapidly spiraling snafu.

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