A sense of place

EPA's Debra Stouffer is a woman on a mission, using IT to make her mark

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"Plug and play"

Debra Stouffer has found peace, thanks to a new government position with a green mission.

She began work in May as the Environmental Protection Agency's first chief technology officer, a role that satisfies both her professional and parental interests.

"This is personal," she said of her latest gig. "I have two children and I know that our mission at EPA will positively impact their future."

The job tops off a long list of federal posts that began with Stouffer as a part-time assistant at the Bureau of National Standards.

She was 16.

"I have always been an overachiever," the 45-year-old Stouffer said, seated on a couch in her office at the EPA. "I was very ambitious and wanted to move ahead in life."

She stayed on the federal payroll during college, taking classes at night for her art and psychology majors and eventually drifted into the technology field at the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"We needed data to do the studies. I could get the data," Stouffer said. Sometimes it's that simple.

"As I worked more and more [with] technology, I loved it," she continued. "I'm very logical. Plus, I love working with people."

Her love of people almost took her down a different path. Next assigned to the Treasury Department, she tried working in personnel. But a big payroll conversion brought her back to the cyber side. "I was the only one who knew how to do it," she said, laughing.

Stouffer went on to serve in senior management positions at the Agriculture Department and then the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As HUD's deputy chief information officer for information technology reform, she helped get the agency in step with the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, which requires agencies to reform their IT policies and develop enterprise architectures.

Former consulting colleague Mark Forman, now associate director of IT and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget, took note and whisked Stouffer to OMB for a temporary detail to establish the foundation for a governmentwide business architecture.

After her brief stint there, she decided to make a move. "The mission at EPA is one that I believe in and support," Stouffer said. She was also excited about the challenges of being the agency's first CTO. And she thought Kim Nelson, the EPA's CIO and assistant administrator for the Office of Environmental Information, had a lot to offer.

As CTO, Stouffer is a senior adviser and consultant to Nelson, providing executive leadership and advice on IT issues. "I focus externally," she said. "How can we use all these best practices and emerging technologies to make a difference here?"

She is intent on learning EPA's business, but later plans to spearhead its enterprise architecture development effort, help strengthen its capital planning and investment process, and assist with the creation of a virtual and physical emergency response situation room.

Outside the agency, Stouffer is president of the Association for Federal Information Resources Management and co-chairwoman of the CIO Council's Best Practices Committee.

Despite all her activities, there is tranquility in her daily life. "You're better at what you do if you have balance," she said. "I've been able to achieve that for the first time."

***

The Debra Stouffer file

Title: Chief technology officer at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Age: 45.

Home base: Gaithersburg, Md.

Hobbies: Biking, boating, painting, running, swimming.

What she's reading: "When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism From the Senate's Only Doctor" by William Frist.

Favorite food: Seafood and pasta.

How she'll spend retirement: Painting, working with children and living near the water.

Quotation: "I'm not climbing the ladder anymore. I just want to contribute. And I really don't care what my position is as long as I can contribute."

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