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2013 Agriculture / Agriculture Department

Gregory Parham, Assistant Secretary (acting), Administration

photo of Ben Terris
July 16, 2013

When you know as much about epidemics as Parham, things can go one of two ways. You can spend your life worrying about all the diseases out there that the public isn't aware of, or you can have enough faith in all the precautions designed to prevent epidemics that you can rest easy at night. Fortunately for Parham, he falls in the latter camp. "Those of us in the field are always on alert," he said. "That makes me less worried." Parham, 59, has been working at USDA since 1982. A native of Ohio, Parham has a bachelor's degree and a doctorate from Ohio State University in veterinary medicine and microbiology, and a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University in administrative science. He took a job with the Centers for Disease Control in 1980 working as an epidemic intelligence-service officer (ask him anything about rabies and he'll probably know the answer). After two years, Parham joined up with USDA, and has held jobs in various divisions, including the Office of the Chief Information Officer and the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Last year, Secretary Tom Vilsack named him to his current post. In the age of sequestration, being the assistant secretary for administration is no easy task. The name of the game, Parham says, is to try to do more with less. Between closing offices around the country, offering incentive payments for early retirement, consolidating IT spending, and trying to create a more collaborative work environment, Parham says the department has cut about a billion dollars in discretionary spending.

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