By fall, EPA will consolidate its systems operations, give CIO more power

By fall, EPA will consolidate its systems operations, give CIO more power

By Shruti Dat' and Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

As the Environmental Protection Agency overhauls its systems management structure and gives the chief information officer agencywide clout under a recently approved reorganization plan, management must convince staff of the importance of controlling data accuracy and dissemination.

So says Paul Wohlleben, the agency's former deputy CIO. 'We're talking about the marriage of science, monitoring information, enforcement and regulatory programs to establish the parameters that industry operates under and the EPA's ability to be flexible'that's what they are trying to put in place now with the restructuring,' said Wohlleben, who is now the director of information technology consulting at Grant Thornton International of Vienna, Va.

Under the current framework, the CIO is in charge of facilities management, contracting and human resources, so the CIO is also a chief financial officer, he said. But EPA bureaus have had a lot of authority over their internal systems.

'You have had an evolution in how the EPA controls information,' Wohlleben said. 'I think the day-to-day recognition of how important it is to control information that is essential, and working with the other senior leadership is necessary.'

The overhaul of EPA's IT organization will double its staff to about 400 employees and create an office focused on information management, EPA officials said last month.

The goal of the reorganization is to use information as a strategic tool by delivering integrated data to EPA's decision-makers, EPA CIO Alvin M. Pesachowitz said.

EPA will make the changes official at the beginning of fiscal 2000 on Oct. 1, Pesachowitz said. Meanwhile, there are a number of management shifts and cultural concerns EPA must resolve, he said.

To that end, a reorganization team is working closely with senior managers and the government's employee unions on the transition plans, Pesachowitz said.

Under the reorganization, the CIO will oversee $400 million in annual spending and 350 to 400 full-time employees. Now, the IT shop at EPA has an annual budget of roughly $70 million and fewer than 200 full-time employees.

Funds for future

The new national program manager, who will serve as CIO, will receive $100 million for staff, establishment of information management and technology policies and programs, and other administrative objectives. An equivalent amount will be allocated to the working capital fund from which EPA personnel can buy services from the national program manager's office, agency officials said.

About $200 million will be funneled through a centralized office for media programs on environmental issues.

The changes are not expected to increase total IT spending or personnel at EPA, but staff additions will be evaluated after the reorganization is complete, Pesachowitz said.

The restructuring will dramatically broaden the range of information technology issues handled by the CIO, Pesachowitz said.

The new structure will cut across EPA organizations. The previous systems management structure complicated the development of agencywide systems because many stovepipe systems had evolved within the EPA, he said.

The new IT group 'will have a broader umbrella over the disparate information systems that have developed over the 29 years' since EPA was established, Pesachowitz said.

Pesachowitz's responsibilities extended beyond his role as CIO because he also held the deputy administrator position for the EPA Office of Administration and Resources Management, which currently oversees the IT office.

Under the new structure, EPA will establish an Information Division to be led by the national program manager, who will report directly to the administrator.

Pesachowitz said his role in the new organization has not been finalized and he might not fill the national program manager post. EPA has not decided whether the program manager post will be a political appointment or a civil service position. EPA, however, is leaning toward making the CIO a political appointee, agency officials said.

The Information Division will be responsible for areas that have traditionally been under the CIO, such as IT policy, oversight and infrastructure, Pesachowitz said. The national coordinator will also be responsible for information and data that is critical to the agency's mission of environmental protection.

EPA gets three new IT offices

  • Information Collection will oversee records management policies and practices, electronic reporting programs and interagency data-sharing initiatives.

  • Information Technology Services will be responsible for EPA's information systems, strategic planning and security.

  • Information Analysis and Access will oversee the agency's online information dissemination programs, including the Envirofacts data warehouse and the Toxics Release Inventory database.

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