Acting agriculture deputy secretary Mike Young visited the displaced National Finance Center (NFC) workers of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) on Feb. 13 after an EF-3 tornado hit the New Orleans, La.-based NFC building the prior week, causing severe damage. No one was seriously hurt as a result of the storm, which struck at approximately 11:20 a.m. on Feb. 7, 2017.
Following the tornado, NFC immediately implemented its continuity of operations plan, and within 12 hours, advance teams were relocated to the alternate work site in Bossier City, La., near Shreveport, La., to begin the resumption of business operations.
The tornado struck NFC in the beginning of a pay week, and NFC said it was able to ensure the safety of all employees, recover from the tornado, deploy staff to the alternate work site in Bossier City and still make timely payroll deposits to all employees it services.
Young, along with USDA acting chief finical officer Lynn Moaney, met with employees to express his gratitude and admiration for their hard work and personal sacrifice that kept NFC running.
"I wanted to say thank you," Young told the crowd of NFC employees. He stressed that the work they do is incredibly important and commended them for their ability to execute their continuity of operations plan in an instant while still delivering on the vital services they provide without interruption.
Around 1,300 employees work at the OCFO New Orleans site. NFC processes payroll for more than 650,000 federal employees across 172 agencies and reconciles health insurance premiums for the entire federal workforce and retiree benefits that are submitted to the Office of Personnel Management. OCFO's New Orleans Financial Management Services provides payment to all USDA vendors, performs all financial management functions for USDA and distributes block grants to states.
After the meeting at the Bossier City facility, Young and Moaney then toured the damage of the NFC office located in Building 350 of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
The Bossier City facility is about 350 miles north of New Orleans and can support up to 500 employees. It was specifically designed to serve as an alternative USDA work site for emergency operations. Currently, about 182 employees have been deployed to Bossier City, while approximately 300 others are teleworking. NFC leadership is working to find another facility closer to New Orleans to get the rest of the employees back to work as quickly as possible.
"Our first priority, now that we know everyone is safe and we have our business operations running, is getting back to New Orleans," NFC director Calvin Turner said.
Turner added that he knows there can be a lot of anxiety the longer workers are deployed and others are displaced. He said supervisors are on daily conference calls to ensure that all employees receive accurate and timely information.
"It was an incredible response on everyone's part at the National Finance Center," Young said. "They had a good plan that they tested a number of times, and they executed it flawlessly. The idea that they were able to have the whole operation up and running in less than a day is unbelievable."
NFC is a shared service provider for financial management services and human resources management services. For more information about NFC, visit www.nfc.usda.gov.