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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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Comments (13)

Do we know how many federal... (Below threshold)
Tom:

Do we know how many federal departments are paid, i.e. monthly, every other Friday, etc.? Just curious, as obviously this is a month-end in the middle of the week, so maybe payroll has already gone through for the period if it's monthend. We can only hope, as this could definitely be a big deal.

Tom, the VA employees are p... (Below threshold)
tongancat:

Tom, the VA employees are paid bi-weekly, and just got their direct deposits last Friday. They are not due to get another until 9/9, so hopefully by then they will be able to have some sort of alternative.

Tom,As noted, acti... (Below threshold)
smitty:

Tom,

As noted, active federal employees are paid bi-weekly, however, retirees are paid monthly on the first work day of each month. Accordingly, the next monthly payment to retirees is due September 1st, a Thursday. We shall see.

Interesting. State Dept. em... (Below threshold)

Interesting. State Dept. employees--I don't know who else--are paid out of Charleston, SC. Retirees, too. Those overseas are paid out of either Bangkok or, I think, Brazil.

Can't they just interrupt t... (Below threshold)

Can't they just interrupt the checks of some of the politicians? I know, wishful thinking.

If checks for Congressmen a... (Below threshold)
Oh, FTLOG:

If checks for Congressmen are also at risk of being delayed, there will be a quick resolution to the problem.

Good afternoon,First... (Below threshold)
Marilyn Tempkins:

Good afternoon,
First, my heart goes out to all the people and all the families in and around the Gulf Coast. What a nightmare for everyone. The governor and the mayor are great...mandatory evacuation is the best policy to save lives. THIS MATTERS MOST.
I, too, was concerned about paycheck this pay period, but did receive my direct deposit on Monday (ussually hits on Sunday before). Website at NFC is not reachable as of now. As far as next paycheck...will have to wait and see. I'm a timekeeper and hope to continue on schedule (business as usual) until notified otherwise.
Thanks for this website and Gd bless.

In a paycheck-to-paycheck c... (Below threshold)

In a paycheck-to-paycheck culture, the devastation of the homes of hundreds of thousands of people will matter very little to those who haven't gotten their paychecks.

I'm a fed timekeeper who us... (Below threshold)
jen:

I'm a fed timekeeper who uses NFC. I'm hoping a back up will be available when it's time for us to submit time data next week, but I'm not expecting it. Fortuntately, we had submitted our last time data last week and got paid this week on time.

I'd guess that at least 1/3 - 1/2 of the fed gov't uses NFC for payroll.

United States Department of... (Below threshold)
Eva:

United States Department of Homeland Security employees are paid 26 times a year and we just received our checks this past weekend. I told my ex husband that if I don't get my next paycheck I will move in with him and mooch off of him. He laughed (we are on good terms since our 1994 divorce). I think the NFC will switch onto their contingency mode and everything will work out just fine. I am glad I visited New Orleans before it became our contemporary Atlantis.

They say there won't be an ... (Below threshold)
anonymous federal employee:
If you can believe what you... (Below threshold)
Ter:

If you can believe what you read, Fed Employees paid via NFC should be OK. Check the link for further details: http://www.fcw.com/article90589-09-01-05-Web&RSS=yes

Old news now, but NFC not o... (Below threshold)
Anonymous:

Old news now, but NFC not only never missed a payroll, they never had to resort to 'straight 80' either.

Except for not mailing paystubs for a while, you would have never known they were moved.




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