National Association of FSA County Office Employees (NASCOE)

By Tom Webb,2014-06-29 10:10
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National Association of FSA County Office Employees (NASCOE) ...

    National Association of FSA County Office Employees (NASCOE)


    Disclaimer: NASCOE met with several individuals and departments while in WDC. The following is a

    compilation of the notes taken by all NASCOE representatives in attendance. Notes were taken by

    subject matter. Some subjects were discussed with more than one individual and department, and,

    thus, the notes from various meetings may have been commingled.

    HRD Pat Farmer, Barbara Boyd

1. Face to Face Retirement Training

    A. Although AgLearn will probably never go away as a means of training, Management

    acknowledges that it is best utilized on courses such as computer security and other mandated


    B. Face to face training remains a budget issue.

    C. HRD national training plan for FY 08 includes comprehensive training of one STO person, if

    funding allows.

    D. Retirement tools and calculator are in the new 35-PM Handbook along with web links. Each STO

    has also been provided a list of retirement planning vendors and Financial Planning vendors.

    E. Management will consider doing a more intense version of Workplace Violence training for County

    Operations Trainees.

2. Leave Donation Between CO and GS Employees

    A. Congressional language change is required for leave donation between CO and GS. NASCOE

    thanks HRD for the information.

    B. NASCOE requested consideration of a leave sharing pool like that available in DC for County Office

    Employees. HRD will consider this request. The leave pool in WDC is only for GS employees.

    C. HRD agreed to provide NASCOE with the regulations that govern the leave sharing program in DC.

3. CED Classification after office consolidation

    A. The STO notifies HRD when a county office structure is being changed. HRD then reclassifies the

    office using present criteria in 27-PM and the latest workload data.

    B. CED grade and pay retention will apply unless the person was in a short-term temporary shared

    assignment. Longer term assignments may qualify for grade and pay retention.

    C. Displaced CED’s will be given priority consideration for any vacancies and will have 2 year re-

    employment rights if requested by the displaced CED.

    D. If an employee will be terminated as a result of closing an office, the STO is required to notify that

    employee with a 60 day notice letter.

4. New PM handbook reissuing benefits information taken out of 22-PM

    A. Handbooks 34-PM and 35-PM were released in August; some county offices just received them in

    the mail.

    B. Grievance Procedure is back in 22-PM via amendment 91.

    C. 35-PM will be compared to 22-PM to insure everything is included.

    D. NASCOE expressed appreciation for the handbooks.

    E. WDC will provide the URL for notification of new handbooks when posted.

5. Programs used for PT Classification Purposes

    A. DCP, CRP, CCRP, PS, NAP are examples of programs used for classification.

    B. STO and DAFP decide if a program will be listed in 27-PM Exhibit 14 and used for PT classification

    purposes. GIS/GPS may be included if this continues to be a permanent program with re-occurring



    C. HRD welcomes the prospect of having GIS/GPS as a classifying program, but the STO’s must

    endorse it.

6. Student loan repayment program benefit

    A. No Student Loan Repayment applications have been approved at any level of FSA.

    B. The intent of this program is for use as an employee retention tool for hard to fill positions.

    C. This program is severely restricted by budget constraints.

    D. WDC is also considering revising the program to be used as a recruiting incentive for hard to fill


7. Re-hire of retired annuitants to help turnover transition

    A. Legislation has not been passed to allow this to occur without affecting a persons annuity.

    Currently two bills have been introduced, House bill 3579 and Senate bill 2003.

    B. 5 CFR Part 553 allows authority to grant waivers in emergency or unusual situations, such as

    Hurricane Katrina (was used on a 60-90 day period).

    C. HRD is looking to the values for granting based on unique skills.

    D. Must be approved by the department based on a case-by-case basis.

    E. OMB has granted 4500 waivers on a per situation basis.

    Budget - Dennis Taitano/Heidi Ware/Vicki Larson/Bob McGrath

1. BPMS and ARS

    A. Both time spent doing manual and web applications will be entered in ARS.

    B. USDA has selected WebTA as the new time and attendance system that will be the platform for


    C. WebTA will be piloted in the current ARS pilot states.

    D. Training will be provided to managers at all levels on the use of the new system’s reports.

    E. The goal is to have WebTA implemented in 2008.

    F. Once the system is in place, it will take two years to establish a baseline of reliable data.

    G. There is a need to have at least one full successful year of WebTA data.

    H. Goal for STO to have reports on BPMS/EPO to have real time information on how long it takes to

    do something in one location vs. another. 2. Record security in field office (W/DAFO)

    A. It has been estimated the cost of securing all the records in the field offices to be 16 to 18 million.

    B. There have been discussions of scanning all records in the county office to met the record security


    C. There was discussion on COC minutes as it relates to PII data. A notice will be out shortly

    identifying the issue of regular session minutes containing producers PII information.

3. FLP/FP workload pro-ration

    A. This worksheet placed on the WL/WM web site was only there to use as a tool.

    B. The new ARS system should account for real time spent between FLP and FP.

    C. The 2008 COF ceiling will be the same as the 2007 ceiling.

4. Carry over S&E funding

    A. 90% of the states did not utilize their entire allocation.

    B. It was asked if a national pool of PT’s could be established just like the current training slots used

    for COT’s and FLOT’s. WDC agreed to look into this option.

    DAM - John Williams


    1. Employee Performance Plans

    A. Everyone agrees that we still have some issues to work out with Performance Plans. B. NASCOE requested a handbook be issued for Performance Plans and Management will look into it. C. Everyone agreed that it is extremely important for supervisors and employees to have a

    conversation about the Plan and it be developed together.

    D. Canned plans should eventually go away.

    E. EmPowHR problems and performance were discussed. A notice was to be issued notifying

    employees that they should prioritize work in EmPowHR to eliminate the surge of use of the

    system. The 2007 ratings should be first priority and 2008 plans can be entered later. There is

    supposed to be an upgrade to the NFC server in January which should alleviate some of the

    problems. F. Required standards for IPIA - PM-2606 and PM-2615 were both issued with stated "required"

    standards. This has been very confusing since states have been told that they could use either,

    both, or something else. DAFO will take another look at this.

    G. NASCOE stressed that Management has to provide the tools, training, and resources an employee

    needs to meet their plan. Being held to no more exceptions than what is allowed under IPIA

    without being given the resources to attain this performance level is unacceptable.

    H. A notice will be issued in December linking the performance plan with the award system.

    2. Leasing

    A. Leasing continues to be a problem but there is language proposed in the Senate Farm Bill that

    would give this authority back to the COC. However, even if given back, there will need to be much

    greater oversight.

    B. The COC leasing authority was left out of the 2006 appropriations language and no one realized it

    until it was too late. Unfortunately, no one was prepared at any level, for the problems this has


    C. GSA receives 8% to perform lease work on behalf of FSA.

    D. NASCOE will be provided a copy of the proposed reinstatement language.

    3. Shared Management Office/PT Job Descriptions

    A. Shared Management will continue as long as budget dictates or offices are closed through


    B. No plan to examine new PT Job Descriptions or Classification until after January 1, 2008 C. NASCOE should provide suggestions on job classifications which do not rely on workload numbers D. Ms. Lasseter was interested in the District Program Assistant job description submitted by NASCOE

    ITSD - Steve Sanders

    1. Web application reliability

A. The tiger team put in place last January was assigned the task to first stabilize the current

    computer system. Three areas were identified in business plan to stabilize and improve the Web

    hosting environment:

     1. Individual Desk Tops

     2. File Servers in Service Center

     3. Operation at the Web farms

    B. Management is aware of the continuing problems. Funding is the limiting factor as to what can be

    done and when it can be done. Servers are being updated and that should improve program


    C. The decision on mass computer purchases was a management decision. It was felt that all of the

    Gateway computers needed to be replaced because of problems with hard drives and expired

    warranties. This should be the last purchase for four years.


D. OCIO said the eventual goal will be to replace the PCs with "thin client" computers that will not

    have a hard drive. All data will be stored on the server.

    E. There is language in the Senate Farm bill to allow for FSA service Center modernization. This

    refers to the MIDAS project and is the main component in solving the IT problems we have been


    2. Eauth

    A. NASCOE requested that a manual or help screens be made available to assist customers and

    employees with screens and problems they may encounter while accessing web applications after

    the customer has received their level two access. ITS and DAFP both said they would look into the

    issue and work on something as time and budget allows.

    B. Other items may be higher priority.

    3. One Login For All Web-based Programs

A. This would require programming changes and funding hasn't been available.

    B. This is a security issue. Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12 (HSPD12) indicates that

    eventually all employees will have smart badges which will also give them login access to their

    computers and eliminate the need for numerous logins. Hopefully, this will be implemented by


    4. Web ad hoc queries

    A. Plan is to build an independent data warehouse separate from the production data base to avoid

    system overloads.

    B. The Administrator has approved $21 million to begin the project. It is expected to cost $70 million

    and take until 2010 to complete.

    C. Reports returned will be similar to Hyperion process.

    5. Use of NAIP funding savings

A. FY2007 NAIP funds were used to stabilize the IT system (part of the $47 million).

    B. If there is a Continuing Resolution all fiscal year, there will be insufficient funding for new NAIP in

    FY 2008.

    C. If the President’s Budget request is funded, then FY2008 NAIP can be provided.

    D. Consideration is being given to providing NAIP on a 3-year cycle.

    E. State-level partnerships will be expected to continue helping with NAIP costs.

    F. It was also discussed about the possibility of moving geospatial data to a central data warehouse

    to avoid duplicating GIS processes and data gathering within USDA.

    Teresa Lasseter, FSA Administrator

    1. 770’s and IPIA/Other Discussion Topics

A. Notice has been issued reducing the number of CCC-770's required. The percent of errors in the

    latest round of reviews was greatly reduced. The Administrator thanked us for our hard work in

    accomplishing the improvements to the IPIA report. NASCOE thanked the Administrator for

    recognizing the hard work.

    B. The CCC-770’s can be reinstated at the “will” of the DD and the STC. The CM notice was a reward

    and we still need to pay attention.

    C. The Administrator will look to ensure that appropriate purchases of hardware (PC’s) are being made.

    The cost of IT is beyond FSA control.

    D. Everyone needs to take some self initiative with regards to continuing education. Another round of

    National PT training will cost $4 million and FSA is still looking to find the $4 million.


    E. In regards to State’s carryover funds, management will need to visit with budget before making a

    commitment about having a National PT pool to help maintain the national level of staffing.

    F. The quality portion of the CDP is the reason for not being able to issue payments. Should be

    approved very soon.

    G. Management will see what can be done to have more frequent reports (quarterly) from the Social

    Security (payments made to deceased producer issue) and have it linked to the SCIMS application.

    OCIO, Robert Suda

    A. OCIO and OMB are looking to have a central GIS location. This is being discussed to eliminate the

    duplication of GIS processes and data gathering that is presently occurring within USDA Agencies.

    B. It took $40 million to stabilize the Web applications system which caused the meltdown that

    occurred last January.

    C. Issues were discovered with data records indexing and a change in the communication application

    has increased the band width needed to function.

    D. IT stabilization only addressed the current system.

    E. There is a need to understand the difference between the business department (FSA, NRCS

    individual computer programs) from the application process (servers and OCIO).

    F. Currently it cost $4,000.00 per PC machine, but with IT client it will cost only $600.00.

    G. Windows software is leased for the WDC contract, not the individual machine.

    CEPD, Robert Stephenson

    1. Future role of FSA in Conservation programs

    A. It all depends on Congress and what happens in the Farm bill.

    B. Did not feel any changes would occur in the Senate Farm Bill version. Much will depend on what

    Congressman Peterson does in conference.

    C. CEPD is happy to see, for the first time, FSA is on the offensive and with administration of CRP,

    there is opportunity.

    2. Update on Environmental Study as a result of the settlement with National Wildlife Federation

    A. This study was contracted out.

    B. EPA objected.

    C. Dispute was settled with OMB blessing.

    thD. Three protests have been filed and adjudicated; now a 4 protest has been filed.

    E. Pasture Recovery Program not included in present Farm Bill proposal.

    DAFO Steve Connelly

    3. Training and Lack of Resources

    A. Funding of a Farm Program delivery task force was requested by management. This is outside of

    the Farm Bill and would be a train the trainer type program. This would be similar to the old

    Counter Skills program.

    B. The effectiveness of Ag Learn has not been measured but will remain a primary training tool

    especially for mandated training such as computer security, civil rights, etc. Face to Face training

    was recommended by the Farm Program Task Force.

    C. Congressional mandates and/or pressure from both Congress and the Secretary's office continue to

    be the driving force behind program starting dates. This is the reason why so many signups

    started within a 30 day window this past fall.

    D. Currently there are 222 COF scheduled to be closed with 48 being completed as of 11/15. All 50

    states have submitted a plan. The number one gain from this process is an increase of

    Management at the local level. With each combination, there is a theoretical gain of .5 FTE

    4. Whistle blower Protection


A. CO or Title 5 employees are not covered by the Whistle Blower Protection Act. However,

    Management reiterated that they will not tolerate any retaliation against CO employees who report

    violations consistent with those provisions.

    B. At NASCOE’s request, DAFO may provide a notice or memo clarifying this issue.

    5. Personnel Privacy vs. COC executive minutes

A. Redacting of personnel information is not appropriate when executive minutes stay within the

    agency or are required by the Justice department.

    B. A notice will soon be issued addressing the correct procedure for the preparation of executive


    C. NASCOE stressed the need for executive session examples.

    DAFP, John Johnson, Craig Trimm, Solomon Ramirez

    1. GIS/GPS and program delivery

A. FSA will secure NAIP imagery for 2008 unless the Agency is under a continuing resolution for the

    full year. If FSA is under a CR for the FY08, sufficient funding will not be available.

    B. Efforts are being taken at the National and State levels to secure financial partners to help cost

    share in the purchase of NAIP imagery.

    C. Funding is included in the Senate Farm Bill to modernize IT, or the purchase of MIDAS. It’s

    premature to predict exactly how that funding mechanization will work. MIDAS is needed to fully

    integrate GIS into program delivery.

    D. Goal is to continue with the new compliance directives but funding is an issue.

    E. Another problem is that 16% of the US has yet to have a certified CLU.

    2. Combining county office system of records when consolidation occurs

A. Maintaining the county identity is not really the issue since farm transfers occur between county

    offices already. The main issue is the complexity of running an IT edit against the system of

    records which will ensure all the changes are made when all the farm and tract numbers are


    B. Not only are the Farm Record files changed, but all other application areas such as Conservation

    and Price Support also.

    C. At this time, resources will not be used to develop a software package to combine the system of

    records in the System 36 when consolidating County Offices. Once all applications are Web-based,

    this becomes a moot issue.

    D. It is FSA’s policy to limit expenditure of resources for improvements/changes to the System 36 and

    devote all resources as possible to web applications and web maintenance.

    3. Paying Deceased People

A. Problems were discovered in the payment process that allowed field offices to issue payments to

    deceased people. These errors need to be reviewed and corrected as soon as possible.

    B. Field offices will be provided with quarterly reports of deceased individuals so records can be

    updated and prevent these errors from occurring in the future.

    C. Goal is to have the social security report linked to SCIMS.


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