CIO: EPA must improve services

Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking much-needed steps toward improving its information technology services, but the agency is still meeting less than half of its current IT demands, said its chief information officer.

Kimberly Nelson, the EPA's CIO, praised the agency's efforts to consolidate its information systems but said its IT service delivery is probably only meeting 30 percent to 40 percent of the agency's demands right now. "My goal would be to increase that as we move forward," she said.

The EPA is finishing the first year of a seven-year, $860 million contract with Computer Sciences Corp. to run the agency's computer center in North Carolina and desktop and support systems nationwide.

"Our highest priority is to move into a performance-based arena with the vendor and increase the level of support provided to EPA employees across the agency," Nelson said, speaking Tuesday at a breakfast sponsored by Input.

The agency's Office of Environmental Information manages the agency's IT policy and infrastructure and ensures that the EPA collects and publicizes high quality environmental information.

Nelson praised the EPA for several programs such as Windows to my Environment, a public access site for environmental conditions, and the Central Data Exchange, a point of entry for environmental data submissions to the EPA. She also stressed the agency's movement toward a central point of location for project management.

Nelson also pointed out, however, several IT weaknesses within the EPA, including the area of geospatial information.

"I can think of few other organizations where being able to map what we know is more important," Nelson said. "We have not done the best job possible of being able to view that information. At the current time, we only have accurate information and locational information on about 46 percent of our facilities. Frankly, that's something we have to address."

In her approach to developing geospatial applications, Nelson said her office should not control all of the applications being developed. Citing a desire to have states and local agencies be stewards of their own information, Nelson praised individuals working on geospatial applications at the regional levels.

"The finest work that's being done in this area is actually in the regions, so the worst thing that I could do from my perspective and my office is to try to shut all that down," Nelson said. "What we need to do a better job of is designating what's an enterprise responsibility versus a local responsibility."

Nelson also announced the creation of a new position within the Office of Environmental Information, called the geographic information officer. This currently vacant office will report to Nelson and will solely work to make public information on geospatial activities.

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