"The threat of cataclysmic hurricanes coinciding with the end the government's fiscal year has prompted the Agriculture Department's National Finance Center to move its data processing hardware from New Orleans to Denver.
The hardware was at the center's New Orleans headquarters until Hurricane Katrina forced the agency to move it to Philadelphia temporarily. The permanent relocation is scheduled for the spring, and will cost about $12 million, said Jerry Lohfink, the center's director.
Only about a dozen employees will be needed to manage the new information technology operation at the Denver Financial Center. There are no plans to require workers in New Orleans to move to Denver, Lohfink said. Those in New Orleans will have remote access to information from Denver.
The move was prompted by concerns about maintaining continuity of operations when computer hardware is housed in areas at a high risk for natural disasters.
NFC is one the largest employers in New Orleans, with more than 1,300 employees. It serves the payroll and human resources needs of about 585,000 federal employees at various of agencies.
The agency began the process of identifying an alternative site for its data processing hardware in 2005 after a continuity of operations review recommended the step. A damage assessment conducted after Hurricane Katrina confirmed the need for a long-term location outside the hurricane-prone area, Lohfink said.
'A risk profile showed that our data processing centers were at hurricane risk right at the end of the fiscal season,' he said. 'We decided that Denver was the best alternative. Every now and then they get a little bit of snow.' "