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KASCOE News

Legislative

Learn More About the Farm Bill Legislative Process

Take a look at this document to learn more about the legislative process that the Farm Bill must pass thru before it can become law.  

NASCOE PAC

Hello KASCOE Members,
 
Do you care about your job and benefits? If so, please read this entire letter. I am contacting you about the NASCOE PAC because I know just how important this tool is for us as FSA employees. Please take a look at the links included in this letter and strongly consider joining me in supporting our future. There is a slideshow on the PAC website that explains more about what it is. Click on the brochure for answers to frequently asked questions. The website also has additional questions and answers at the bottom. If you signup to contribute or increase your contribution by at least $3 per pay period then you will get a cool stainless steel PAC mug that you can use proudly.
 
Kentucky needs to be a leader in PAC participation! We constantly face attacks on our benefits and on our agency, which could lead to a loss of jobs and the relocation of employees, if we do not put up a strong fight. If we don’t fight for our offices and our employees, our farmers will ultimately be impacted and pay a price as well. 
 
Please join and show your support for our jobs and our farmers by joining NASCOE’s PAC today. Just complete the enrollment form or increase form and email it back to me and someone will give you a call to help you get your contribution started.
 
You can find information as well as the slideshow by going to NASCOE.org and clicking on NASCOE PAC under the legislative tab or follow the links in this letter.
 
Sincerely,
 
Kay Barton
KASCOE President

Summary of the April 27, 2017, Directors Meeting

Official minutes will be posted at a later date when approved, but the following is an informal summary of the recent KASCOE Directors Meeting. 

  • Membership is currently 82% of permanent COF Employees.  Currently, there are 19 Associate Members. 
  • Scholarship Committee report resulted in two state scholarships being awarded.  The winners are Cheyenne Perry (Traditional), and Kassandra Hamilton (Open).
  • Because national scholarship program rules and categories have expanded over the past couple of years, it was evident that Kentucky needed to update our state-level policy.  For future years, the state will award one $500 Traditional Scholarship, one $250 Associate Scholarship, and consider other scholarship applications only if there is additional funding available.  As is currently policy for Traditional/Associate scholarships, Kentucky will follow NASCOE rules for any categories that are considered at the state level, in the future. 
  • Programs Report reflected 15 Programs Suggestions have been sent in this year from the Southeast Area, with 6 being from Kentucky.  All employees were encouraged to continue to utilize this process through the NASCOE website. 
  • Benefits Committee report announced that Holiday World is a new discount available to KASCOE members, with the discount code released in a 4/26/17 membership email. 
  • NAFEC Committee report included announcement that there are 29 COC members from Kentucky who participate in NAFEC, currently.  Coy extended appreciation for Debbie Wakefield having recently sent a state-wide email to COF's asking them to present the info to COCs.
  • Publicity report announced that the March Madness Bracket Challenge winners were Gidget Cropper, Jennifer Farmer, and Patricia Estes.
  • Dawn Ovesen gave a report from the SEA Rally.
  • Kenni Crane gave a Legislative Update and discussed the need to distribute the White Paper info that was recently sent out to members by KASCOE email to all federal legislators in the state.  There was a discussion that some had already been contacted, but all congressional offices need to receive the information.  It will be posted to the KASCOE website.
  • Convention Planning was discussed.  Participation in a State Convention has been down recently, so the Directors decided to forego a state convention this year, and plan to host the SEA rally in spring of 2018.  Preliminary ideas were to have in Lexington in April, in order to offer Keeneland as an activity to draw participants from the Area. 


Hatch Act reminders from NASCOE

All NASCOE members (as well as nonmember FSA Employees) who use any type of social media including Facebook, should review the FAQ page on the Office of Special Counsel web page regarding the use of Social Media during this political season.  You will have to tab several pages to questions 101 – 110 for information on social media.  It could be a possible violation of the Hatch Act to post, like, share or comment, tweet, re-tweet or any other action on a partisan social media entry of any type while on official time.  Be very careful!  It is also not acceptable to use your official title to campaign, endorse or attend any political event in your official capacity.  That includes any partisan or non-partisan event including but not limited to town mayor, schoolboard, rural water board, city council, etc.  These types of Hatch act violation investigations would come from above the agency level and your agency would be of little help.  If you even question the fact that it might be an ethics violation DON'T DO IT. 

Notes from KASCOE Directors' Meeting; Meeting with STC

On February 17, 2016, KASCOE Directors met at Residence Inn in Lexington, KY.  Full minutes will be shared at a later date, when approved.  The following is an overview of items addressed.

  • Membership Report - We have 82% membership of all current COF employees.  Also, 19 Associate Members.

  • Scholarship Report:

4 Traditional and 2 Open scholarship applications were received -- all from deserving candidates!  Sufficient funds are available to award all applicants a scholarship.  The Directors voted to fund all 6.  Check back later on our Scholarship page for more info!

Kentucky will offer a $250 Scholarship to Associate Members' children/grandchildren beginning in 2017.  NASCOE will be offering a similar program, and Kentucky's will match those forthcoming rules.

  • Kentucky plans to send 2 representatives to a Legislative/Leadership Conference to be conducted by NASCOE.
  • A March Madness Bracket Challenge will be held again this year.
  • Members are invited to attend and help with the upcoming KACS Zone Meeting.
  • Kentucky will now offer Member Benefits of Kentucky Kingdom and Louisville Zoo discounts.
  • Dana McKinney will serve as Kentucky's delegate at the SEA Rally, April 6-9 at Savannah, Georgia.  Several members plan to attend.
  • 2016 National Convention will be in Cedar Rapids Iowa, August 3-6.
  • State Convention planning for 2016 is underway.
  • Director Elections will be held this year, in September. 
  • Follow-up to communications meeting at CRP training was discussed.  Marcinda indicated that the reports calendar remains a priority that she nearly has this completed to share with COF users.
  • A new NASCOE Emblems provider is being announced and is linked to NASCOE.org website.
  • 2 DSA Nominations have been submitted from Kentucky.
  • Kevin Whitaker was presented with the Spirit of KASCOE Award.

On February 18, 2016, KASCOE had opportunity to meet for about 1 hour with the STC, SED, AO, FPC, and Administrative Specialist, Mitch Dunn.  The following issues were addressed.

  • Appreciation expressed to STC for authority to hire many new employees over the past year.
  • We presented the need for additional Mesonet stations, particularly in StrikeForce Counties.  SED and FPC will follow-up with partners to discuss this. 
  • KASCOE requested the STC reconsider the decision that CED's are not authorized to attend the upcoming COC Orientation sessions.  Concerns noted were attendance of COC members expected to be less if carpooling with CED doesn't occur.  Also, CED's feel like it is important for them to hear the same information concerning administrative matters and appeals.  The STC/SED will give consideration to our request.
  • Need for retirement training was discussed.  All-PT meetings will include presentations from Mark Stivers.  KASCOE suggested that additional trainings for new employees, mid-career employees, and those near retirement be held.  The STO agreed to evaluate the possibility of this, and to look at putting out a Notice with recommended resources for employees to access concerning retirement. 
  • KASCOE presented a concern from the field regarding timely processing of COC members' applications that have to go before the STC for approval. 

NASCOE Legislative/Appropriations Update

From: Donny Green, NASCOE SEA Legislative Chair


This summary (link above) is provided by NASCOE's Legislative Consultant, Hunter Moorhead, that gives a snapshot of the legislative accomplishments that NASCOE has achieved over the last year. As you look at the FY16 Appropriations language, you can rest assured that Appropriations Committee listened to NASCOE's concerns.

I often hear members (and non-members) ask "what is NASCOE doing for me?" The attached memo would be an excellent tool to use to answer that question. 

Info about GAO concerning MIDAS

From: Hunter Moorhead, NASCOE Legislative Consultant
Subject: MIDAS Program
Date: Mon, 22 Jun 2015 18:59:37 +0000

As a follow-up to previous emails, the General Accountability Office (GAO) recently released their MIDAS report. The highlights are below for your review. In addition, the full report (67 pages) is attached for people who want to review the entire report. As we move forward, I expect the Department of Agriculture to respond to GAO regarding the proposed recommendations. The Congress will review this report and determine the pathway forward. Hunter
 
What GAO Found
The key factors that led to the decision to halt the Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems (MIDAS) program were poor program performance and uncertainty regarding future plans. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) experienced significant cost overruns and schedule delays, deferred the majority of the envisioned features, skipped key tests, and deployed software in April 2013 that was slow and inaccurate. In addition, FSA struggled to establish a new program baseline as estimates grew from $330 million to $659 million and time frames were delayed from early 2014 to late 2016. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FSA did not approve three different baseline proposals by the time the program was halted. By March 2015, MIDAS had overrun its baseline cost estimate by $93 million.

FSA has delivered about 20 percent of the functionality that was originally planned for MIDAS. FSA envisioned MIDAS as a single platform to host data, tools, and applications for administering farm program benefits that would be integrated with USDA financial, geospatial, and data warehouse systems. However, FSA delivered a platform that hosts data for administering farm program benefits and is integrated with USDA's geospatial system; it does not host tools and applications for administering benefits, and is not integrated with USDA's financial system or data warehouse.

Figure: Comparison of Functions Planned and Delivered

FSA did not have key program management disciplines in place for MIDAS, and lacks the capacity to effectively manage successor programs. Of 18 key practices associated with sound IT acquisition and investment management and required by USDA or FSA policy, FSA implemented 2, partially implemented 7 practices, and did not implement 9 others. For example, USDA and FSA did not establish a complete set of requirements, perform key tests before deploying the system, or provide effective oversight as the program floundered for 2 years. Moving forward, FSA has begun planning how it will continue to automate, integrate, and modernize its farm program services through additional system development initiatives. However, the agency has not yet established plans to improve its management capabilities. Until FSA establishes and implements such a plan, the agency will continue to lack the fundamental capacity to manage IT acquisitions. Further, until FSA addresses shortfalls in key program management disciplines on successor programs to MIDAS, the agency will be at an increased risk of having additional projects that overrun cost and schedule estimates and contribute little to mission-related outcomes.

Why GAO Did This Study

Since 2004, FSA has spent about $423 million to modernize IT systems through a program known as MIDAS. FSA planned for this program to replace aging hardware and software applications and to provide a single platform to manage all of the agency's farm programs. However, the agency experienced significant challenges in managing this program. In July 2014, the Secretary of Agriculture decided to halt MIDAS after the completion of a second software release.

GAO was asked to review the MIDAS program. This report (1) describes what led to the decision to halt further MIDAS development, (2) compares the functionality that MIDAS has implemented to its original plans, and (3) evaluates the adequacy of key program management disciplines in place for MIDAS and successor programs.

To do so, GAO analyzed agency policies and guidance; evaluated program management plans and related artifacts, program and contractor status reports, program milestone artifacts, and lessons learned; obtained a live demonstration of MIDAS; and interviewed agency and contractor officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making five recommendations to FSA, including establishing and implementing a plan for adopting recognized best practices. GAO received written comments from the FSA administrator. While the agency did not explicitly agree or disagree with the recommendations, it cited steps it has taken or plans to take to implement best practices.

Recommendations for Executive Action

·         Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSA Administrator to establish and implement an improvement plan to guide the agency in adopting recognized best practices and following agency policy.

·         Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSA Administrator to adhere to recognized best practices and agency policy in developing and managing system requirements before proceeding with any further system development to deliver previously envisioned MIDAS functionality. Specifically, the Administrator should ensure that requirements are complete, unambiguous, and prioritized; commitment to requirements is obtained through a formal requirements baseline; differences (or gaps) between the requirements and capabilities of the intended solution (including commercial off-the-shelf solutions) are analyzed; strategies to address any gaps are developed; and requirements are traced forward and backward among development products.

·         Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSA Administrator to adhere to recognized best practices and agency policy in planning and monitoring projects. Specifically, the Administrator should ensure that project plans include predefined expectations for cost, schedule, and deliverables before proceeding with any further system development; updates to the project plan are made through change control processes; and progress against the project plan, including work performed by contractors, is monitored.

·         Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSA Administrator to adhere to recognized best practices and agency policy in system testing. Specifically, the Administrator should establish well-defined test plans before proceeding with any further system development, and ensure that testing of (a) individual system components, (b) the integration of system components, and (c) the end-to-end system are conducted.

·         Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSA Administrator to adhere to recognized best practices and agency policy in executive-level IT governance before proceeding with any further system development. Specifically, an executive-level governance board should (1) review and approve a comprehensive business case that includes a life cycle cost estimate, a cost-benefit analysis, and an analysis of alternatives for proposed solutions that are to provide former MIDAS requirements prior to their implementation; (2) ensure that any programs that are to accommodate former MIDAS requirements are fully implementing the IT program management disciplines and practices identified in this report; (3) conduct a post-implementation review and document lessons learned for the MIDAS investment; and (4) reassess the viability of the MIDAS technical solution before investing in further modernization technologies.
 
 
 
From: Hunter Moorhead 
Sent: Thursday, May 28, 2015 4:25 PM
Subject: MIDAS Program
 
Good afternoon – Please know that both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and USDA's Inspector General will soon release reports related to FSA's management of the MIDAS program. Unfortunately, both reports will be critical of FSA's leadership and USDA's inability to properly manage/implement the program. If contacted by the press, please direct those calls to Mark Vanhoose so that any response will be coordinated and delivered on behalf of NASCOE. Other than that, the Congress has been out of session this week so the legislative work has been uneventful.  Keep in touch, Hunter

 

SEA Legislative Report

SEA Legislative Report - read it HERE.

2016 Budget Resolution Info

NASCOE Legislative Consultant Hunter Moorhead, recently shared an update concerning the 2016 Budget Resolution.  Read the info HERE.

Legislative Update - Employees' Retirement Contributions Could Increase

Concerned about potential increases in the amount you're required to contribute to your retirement?  

Read more HERE about legislative activity on this topic.
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