Ann Dunkin has already spent a few weeks at the helm of the office that keeps tabs on the bits and bytes involving the projection of the U.S.’s air, water and land.
Settling into her new job as EPA’s chief information officer, Dunkin told FedScoop she aims to boost the agency’s efficiency and the skills of its workforce, but she comes in with several major agency initiatives already in progress.
“I hope that we will be able to shift the development methodologies we’re using to be more agile and nimble, that EPA will be able to deliver more IT tools and learn some methodologies to do that,” she said.
One of EPA’s major projects, she told FedScoop in an interview in her downtown Washington, D.C. office, is an initiative to better coordinate efforts between federal regulators, states and tribes under a new program called E-Enterprise for the Environment. Under the initiative, advocates want to create a portal that could improve communications between agencies and make processes more efficient.
“It’s an effort to streamline the way we gather data, the way we show data, primarily with the states and tribes, but there’s a significant industry component because a lot of this interaction happens with industry,” she told FedScoop, which broke the news about her new role.
The project is still in its planning stages. Indeed, EPA recently asked the public to weigh in on how the e-Enterprise portal should look. But Dunkin said the overarching program would allow the agency to more effectively parse data and make it available to scientists in and out of the agency as well as the public.
At the same time, Dunkin said she’s working to decipher how the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, also known as FITARA, could change the way her agency operates. The legislation, which passed late last year as part of the Defense Department’s authorization bill, is an attempt to reform how the government makes its IT purchases.
As part of FITARA — as well as what she calls “good due diligence” — she’s also evaluating the agency’s entire technology portfolio.
“Over time, the portfolio gets sort of bloated,” she said. “Particularly if you have the independence we have, you get multiple applications doing the same thing. So we’re trying to look at what’s in our portfolio now as we migrate from some systems that hosted a lot of things.”
Dunkin didn’t start her new job at the EPA green. She’s been at headquarters since August, soon after President Barack Obama nominated her to take on the job as CIO and assistant administrator for environmental information. Her nomination for the latter title is still pending in Congress.
Earlier in her career, Dunkin held a number of senior-level jobs at Hewlett-Packard Co., including senior R&D program manager. She left the computing giant to take a job as director of technology and later chief technology officer at the Palo Alto Unified School District.
STEM education remains close to Dunkin’s heart. (In fact, she’s scheduled to speak Wednesday afternoon at a closing session of an education technology conference in Atlanta.) She talked about engaging girls in science, technology, engineering and math topics, particularly between grades 4 and 6, when studies show that interest in tech wanes. She also emphasized the importance of pushing for bigger technology budgets — like she did tech-savvy Palo Alto.
When Dunkin was looking into moving from Palo Alto schools to the federal government, she was inspired by the enthusiasm of EPA’s staffers. But she said she’s always cared about the environment.
“I can’t think of a more important mission than having clean air, clean water and clean land … who can’t get behind that?” she said.