INTERVIEW | Mark Day, EPA's IT edge man | GCN

| Mark Day, EPA’s IT edge man






Before coming to EPA in 1993, Day was CIO for environmental
quality at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.


His work experience includes automating Missouri’s inventory tracking and client
scheduling for the state’s weather program.


Day has a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Southwest
Baptist University, and he has done graduate work in IT.


GCN staff writer Merry Mayer interviewed Day at his office in Washington.













GCN: What are your top concerns?


DAY: We are going to a single e-mail system for the agency. It sounds a bit trivial.
But when you consider we have six e-mail systems today, going to one is a massive
challenge.


We have to move 14,000 people to the new system, and we are doing it over a two-year
period. So while it is not sexy in some ways, it is a very big customer service issue
for us.


This is where we have to get it right because everyone in this agency uses
e-mail. From the administrator down, it is the lifeblood of the organization. It
is the reputation of the organization in terms of delivering good service.


Another big issue is security. I think when the year 2000 issue is over, the next big
issue in the information technology arena will be security. How do we maintain it? How do
we assure the public that we have it?


As an agency we collect data that is sensitive to a lot of companies. We have to assure
them that their information is secure, that it is not being accessed by people who are
inappropriate. So we not only have to have the security, we have to appear to have the
security.


We believe we have very strong security today, but there are always new challenges. The
game of defense is always one of escalating defenses.


No matter what you do, the person trying to get in is looking for a new way to come at
you.


So you have to be constantly shifting and growing your defense process.


GCN: I understand a hacker tried
to break into the computers at the Environmental Protection Agency.


DAY: We have had attempts at hacking, and we have successfully stopped them. We have
successfully worked with law enforcement to deal with the perpetrators. I don’t want
to say a whole lot more because I don’t want to challenge anyone’s manhood on
this question.


GCN: What are some of the
projects you are working on?


DAY: We are creating a new information organization at EPA. The administrator, Carol
Browner, has a very clear vision of information as an environmental management tool.


It is not just a backroom operation. It is a method of environmental
protection—putting information in the hands of the public, putting it in the hands of
our partners and working with industry so they have access to good information about
environmental issues. It goes beyond the traditional regulatory approach and adds a whole
new approach to environmental protection.


We are organizing the agency to accomplish that vision. Bringing more clarity to who is
in charge of this strategy of public information is a key part of that. Browner has issued
a couple of public memos about this, and she is looking for clarity on who is in charge,
clarity on how we run the information process of this agency, clarity about bringing
together our data collection processes.


GCN: How will the reorganization
affect your department?


DAY: We are the supporting cast. We provide the technology to make EPA work.


So we are part of the reorganization process, and, obviously, I have great concerns
about how that plays out and making sure it works to the maximum benefit of the agency.


The staff is always concerned about what change means. But it is my personal
belief—and it has been for six years—that this is the right choice for this
agency. When I came to this agency six years ago, it was clear to me quickly that we
needed this clarity of focus and clarity of management structure which the administrator
has asked us to produce.


GCN: You are replacing your
human resources system with software from PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif. Can you
talk about that?


DAY: The future of the agency is in integrating all this information that we now have
in all these stovepipes, both on our environmental program side and our administrative
side. There are two big projects that bring data together.


One is our PeopleSoft effort, which is bringing together our human resources
information. We have a number of smaller systems it will be replacing. It also takes care
of a lot of things that are still manual processes today. It gives us a complete picture
of our human resources information.


That fundamentally changes our ability to manage the administrative side of the agency
in terms of human resources. It is a big challenge. It is obviously complex because it has
relationships to our financial systems, to our payroll systems. And we intend to bring it
up before the year 2000.


It will give us the ability to do data mining.


GCN: What is the second big
project?


DAY: On the environmental program side we have something called Envirofacts. We have
brought together eight major information systems of the agency for all the data about
facilities that we care about. These have been put together and are accessible to the
public, our staff and our partners so they can begin to look at a particular facility or a
particular site in a holistic fashion.


Envirofacts represents a whole new frontier in using information for the agency. We
have always had systems that successfully allowed us to manage our programs. Each
individual program could manage its program using our various systems. But today we need
to look at a facility and understand the air, the water, the waste, the
pesticides—all the different aspects that go along with that particular facility.


Envirofacts begins to build the information base we need to look at data by location.
We can begin to do data mining and understand different sectors, different types of
industries, different types of facilities.


We can begin to understand how a facility’s setting in a particular type of
watershed or particular land formation affects the environment. We can begin to take all
this facility data we have and marry it with demographic data, endangered species data,
land coverage data and begin to understand the environment on a whole new level.


It is not unlike Columbus who gets his dollars to go to the East Indies, but in fact
discovers America. We have some idea of what Envirofacts can do for us, but a reading of
history tells me that what it will really help us to do is discover whole new avenues of
understanding of the environment that as of yet we don’t even envision.


It will affect how we go about our regulatory programs over time. It will affect our
research. Once we have all this data together, we will also be able to bring together new
sources of data we haven’t even thought about.


GCN: Where is EPA in moving
toward one-stop reporting?


DAY: One-stop reporting is a tough issue because you have a transitional issue. If you
think about Reagan National Airport, the tough part of building the new terminal was
keeping the airport operating while the building went on. That was the challenge.


Building something new is simple compared to building something in an operating
situation. That was the problem for us with one-stop reporting. It was not, how do you do
one-stop reporting? That could be worked out. What was difficult was, how do you take 50
states that each have their own problems, own laws, own requirements for data and match up
these 300 or 400 moving parts to move to one-stop reporting? 

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