Agriculture secretary seeks to avoid furloughs

Vilsack said the process will minimize impact felt by "farmers and ranchers." -- CRAIG TUTTLE/NEWSCOM

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday elaborated on his approach to cutting spending following an announcement the department will close hundreds of locations.

Under the new plan, called the Blueprint for Stronger Service, the U.S. Agriculture Department will close 259 domestic offices, facilities and labs in the United States and seven foreign offices.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Vilsack said the closings and consolidations were in response to cuts of $3 billion, or 12 percent of USDA's operating budget, that have taken place since 2010. He said Congress now is asking to cut an additional 9 percent to 18 percent in salaries and expenses as well as programs cuts in areas such as conservation.

The department has opted not "to go through the normal furlough process because this causes massive disruption in services to the people we care about, the farmers and ranchers," Vilsack said.

Instead, he will pursue a "comprehensive approach" that cuts travel and conferences by $90 million and speeds process improvement while offering early out and early separation packages. Some 7,000 department employees already have accepted such packages, Vilsack said, and he expects that number to rise, allowing planners to generate more savings by not filling posts.

Vilsack stressed that the announcements of cuts in food inspection offices affected only administrative personnel, not actual food inspectors. He added that the department will try to reassign bureau employees within 20 miles of their former office.

Asked whether Congress, as it has done in the past, might block moves to close rural offices, Vilsack said, "the difference this time is that the whole country is aware of our fiscal circumstances. We plan to manage change rather than be managed by change."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.