EPA maneuvers to win infrastructure money

EPA maneuvers to win infrastructure money

Can a picture of a diseased lung open funding streams for IT? It did for the Environmental Protection Agency.

'Beggars must be choosers,' said Mark Day, EPA's deputy CIO, speaking at a Washington luncheon this week sponsored by the Association for Federal IRM.

'It's always a fight between applications and infrastructure,' Day said of EPA's IT funds. Sexy applications win, he said, so his shop developed a strategy of not banging heads with budget decision-makers.

According to Day, chronically underfunded IT shops can find a way out of obsolete infrastructures by skipping annual pleas for LAN or e-mail upgrades. Instead, they should ask for money for high-value programs that appeal to program managers.

Day said EPA has taken a portfolio management approach. It outsources commodity services such as e-mail, LAN management and mainframe operations, letting the contractors figure out how to do upgrades cheaply and saving the agency's small capital fund. Then EPA's skilled IT workers can be diverted to what Day called mission-integrated services that are sure to draw money.

As an example, he cited a program to apply computer modeling to the effects of particulate matter on lungs. 'It saved months and years of regulatory development,' Day said. 'People will pay for that.'

'Over time,' Day said, 'the high-value services become commoditized and moved to outsourcing.' There is always a lineup of new, high-value IT challenges to take their place, he said.

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