Hurricane Katrina May Disrupt Federal Payrolls

Among the tens of thousands of businesses located in the New Orleans area is one relatively obscure part of the US Department of Agriculture – the National Finance Center. Federal employees should be well aware of the functions of the NFC, since it is the payroll clearing house for the federal government, and home to the records of the government employees retirement systems.

In June of this year USDA and NFC officials indicated that their data centers would be moved to Kansas City and managed remotely from New Orleans, but that move was not scheduled to be complete until next summer. Here’s how Government Computer News reported it:

The reconfiguration idea grew from the ground up, but Lohfink said such senior department officials as outgoing Agriculture CIO Scott Charbo view the reconfiguration as a step in aligning the department to enterprise management and more efficient government.

“We just launched the project to better align the data centers. By aligning them, we will have a standard configuration, which will enable us to make larger buys and save money,” Charbo, who was appointed last week as the new CIO for the Homeland Security Department, said at a recent conference. NFC currently has a subscription service for disaster recovery and a small backup computer facility from SunGard Data Systems Inc. of Wayne, Pa. The center conducts two three-day test periods a year, providing its services out of a SunGard computer facility.

The tape-based process NFC uses to back up most applications entails lengthy downtime in an emergency, including shipping tapes and bringing a skeletal staff to the alternate facility. “At best, that’s a 48-hour recovery window,” [NFC director Jerry] Lohfink said.

It also is heavily reliant on people being able to travel to the SunGard site to use those backup tapes. NFC plans to establish a primary computing facility co-located with NITC in two separate rooms – one supporting NFC customers and the other NITC customers.The National Finance Center home page is unreachable…

We’ll know soon whether they can get back online, but the possibility that federal government employees will miss a paycheck or two is real.

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