FROM THE EDITOR
A Florida IT chief stakes his claim in Washington
Thomas R. Temin
Can Washington learn anything from Tallahassee?
Edwin A. Levine hopes so. As the politically appointed chief information officer of the Environmental Protection Agency, he brings a long history of state government experience to a federal agency with a challenging political and technical environment.
Levine is a self-described believer in technology and its power to improve how agencies do business with one another and with citizens. He describes himself, however, not as a techie but as a specialist in organizational change.
In Florida, he was a policy coordinator in the governor's Office of Policy and Budget. He held a similar post in Washington state. Before that, the Florida native worked for the Florida Legislature as staff director of the Joint Legislative Committee on Information Technology Resources.
He also worked briefly in the private sector but decided he was better suited to public service.
What Levine does matters to states because of the information sharing that takes place between EPA and state environmental agencies. For these exchanges to be useful and efficient, everyone must speak the same language'technically.
For example, Levine said in a speech last month to vendors in Washington that he wants to step up EPA's efforts with the Environmental Council of the States to come up with universal identifiers for regulated sites. This alone would make data collection and integration easier, he said.
States do a better job than the federal government building and operating integrated environmental systems, Levine said, and have more contracting flexibility and creativity. Integrated systems not only make data easier to access and cross-reference, they produce better reports'both environmental and financial'for executive branch officials and lawmakers.
The next step'integrating federal, state and local government services'remains a ways off. People in law enforcement, environmental protection, juvenile justice, education, welfare, transportation and other areas are even now working hard to build intergovernmental systems.
As a political appointee, Levine might have only a few months to get anything done. If Vice President Gore wins in November, Levine could serve longer than six months to a year, but that's anyone's guess.
In the meantime, state and local IT and program folks should watch Levine and EPA carefully to see how one of their own fares in the nation's capital.Thomas R. Temin