GAO Gives Recommendations for USDA MIDAS Program

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The Government Accountability Office gave improvement recommendations to the Department of Agriculture Farm Service agency on the modernization of its Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agriculture Systems (MIDAS) program.

FSA plans to modernize the systems supporting its 37 farm programs with MIDAS. Implementation cost estimates are approximately $305 million with a life cycle cost of approximately $473 million.

GAO gave the following recommendations for the program:

  • To increase the likelihood that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be able to successfully define, develop, and deploy the Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems (MIDAS) program, and to ensure that the department can effectively oversee MIDAS cost, schedule, and performance commitments, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to develop timely cost estimates for MIDAS’s remaining phases, its overall development and deployment, and its life cycle, to incorporate the program changes previously omitted and any others recently identified and develop complete and detailed schedules for the program’s current and remaining phases that take into account the milestone delays from the program’s second phase and a requirements baseline.
  • To increase the likelihood that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be able to successfully define, develop, and deploy the Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems (MIDAS) program, and to ensure that FSA is employing leading practices for program planning and monitoring, requirements management, contract management, and risk management for MIDAS, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to (1) charter and operate an integrated project team that commits stakeholders to the program from other USDA information technology (IT) initiatives; (2) establish an integrated project schedule that identifies tasks, dependencies, and resource commitments and contention between MIDAS and other department IT initiatives; (3) clearly track key milestones, and report their status in the program’s business case and on the Office of Management and Budget’s IT Dashboard; (4) validate all of the 591 user pain points against the requirements and document the results of this validation, including points that will not be addressed by MIDAS; (5) update the program’s management plans to clearly delineate the roles and responsibilities of contractors assigned to the same tasks; and (6) document the status of resolved and unresolved risks initially identified in November 2010, identify and maintain any unresolved risks from that period in the current risk register, and regularly track risks and update the risk register according to the program’s risk management plan.
  • To increase the likelihood that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be able to successfully define, develop, and deploy the Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems (MIDAS) program, and to ensure the effectiveness of MIDAS oversight and the efficiency of its governance bodies, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the chief information officers of USDA and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to (1) delineate the roles and responsibilities of the governance bodies and clarify coordination among them, to include criteria for escalating issues and (2) document how the department is meeting its policy for IT investment management for MIDAS, to include investment reviews.

Full Report

USDA SYSTEMS MODERNIZATION: Management andOversight Improvements Are Needed

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Congress, Department of Agriculture (USDA), Government Accountability Office (GAO), Government IT News
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