Statement of Romulo L. Diaz, Jr.
Confirmation Hearing as Assistant Administrator for Administration and Resources Management
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before the Committee on Environment and Public Works
United States Senate
July 30, 1998

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, it is a great honor and privilege to be here today as the nominee of President Clinton and Administrator Browner to be the Environmental Protection Agency's Assistant Administrator for Administration and Resources Management.

I am very proud to have been asked to serve in the Clinton Administration and with Administrator Carol Browner, who are working to enhance the level of public health and environmental protection for all Americans. I look forward to working closely with you, the Congress, to continue to improve management and performance at EPA.

I want to speak briefly about my background and discuss where I would hope to bring new ideas and leadership to the position, if confirmed.

I come to you with over 25 years of experience in public service, both as an attorney and as a manager of domestic and international strategic programs for the Department of Energy (Department or DOE) and other Federal energy agencies. In my current position as Director of the Office of Regulatory Coordination, I have played a leadership role in reinvention efforts that resulted in the elimination or streamlining of more than 75 percent of the Department's regulations, 50 percent of its internal directives, and 20 percent of its paperwork burden. These efforts are enabling the Department to realize savings in excess of $100 million over five years.

In previous posts, I was responsible for DOE management and operations policies, was twice unanimously elected by the nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to chair an energy committee, successfully negotiated the international energy contingency response to the 1990-91 Gulf Crisis, represented the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on important energy legislation, and led that agency's efforts to create a nationwide system for the emergency implementation of deregulatory pricing regimes under the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978.

Throughout my career, I have pursued public service with a passion and have dedicated myself to making the Federal Government work better and more efficiently to meet the needs of its customers and stakeholders. I have done this while always being mindful of the expectations of the American public. This has required a dedication to measuring performance based on results, rather than process. If given the opportunity, I look forward to bringing these experiences and perspectives to the leadership team at EPA and to continuing to sharpen EPA's focus on efficient management services.

I would like to summarize the values and principles that will guide me if this Committee approves my nomination and the Senate chooses to confirm me as EPA's Assistant Administrator for Administration and Resources Management. They include: integrity and fiscal responsibility; openness and willingness to listen; fairness and accountability; proactivity; and a spirit of partnership. EPA's Office of Administration and Resources Management provides leadership to ensure sound management of administrative services throughout the Agency. The Office has a broad range of functions, including: management of human resources; information technology; contracts; grants; employee health, safety and security; and facilities construction. In managing these programs, I pledge to ensure the highest quality standards of integrity and fiscal responsibility. I would like to focus on several high priority areas.

First, I am aware that the Congress has concerns about the Federal response to the Year 2000 computer date conversion issue (Y2K) and I know this is also one of Administrator Browner's top priorities. In my discussions with senior EPA staff, I have been assured that EPA's mission critical information systems and technology infrastructure will be Y2K compliant and verified through operational trials before the turn of the century. EPA is working with state, local, and tribal governments and regulated industries to ensure that systems will be compatible to allow for the exchange of data by the year 2000. In addition, the Agency is working with several sectors of American industry to build awareness and to encourage their action to address Y2K problems.

EPA has placed an increased emphasis on using the tools of government to enhance the way we get information to the public about our drinking water, our air, our homes, and the environment in our communities. Improving access to and the quality of environmental information allows society at all levels to make better decisions. The Office of Administration and Resources Management has the responsibility for the technology infrastructure that supports these efforts. If confirmed, I will dedicate myself to moving this important initiative forward.

I am aware that the Congress has been concerned in the past with the Agency's management of its contracts, grants and assistance agreements. About two-thirds of EPA's budget is obligated as contracts or grants every year, so these are very important areas to manage and to manage well. I have been informed that the Agency has made substantial progress, so much so that EPA's Inspector General agrees that contracts management should no longer be reported as a "material weakness" to the President and Congress. Furthermore, the grants close-out backlog has been reduced by 80 percent. If confirmed, I pledge my support to the Administrator and the Congress to strengthen the initiatives the Agency has established to promote more effective management and accountability for these important functions.

I firmly believe the Federal government has a responsibility to attract a workforce that reflects the talents and perspectives of a growing multi-cultural society. This is an investment in the human infrastructure of the Agency to ensure that it has the science and technology skills needed for the future. Building on my previous experiences, I intend to ensure that EPA's work environment is grounded in fairness and recognizes the richness and diversity of its workforce.

I also believe it is essential that we provide a healthy, safe and secure environment for the Agency's employees. In that regard, I want to recognize your support, Mr. Chairman, and that of the Members of the Committee, in helping EPA to obtain the necessary space that will allow us to consolidate our employees in Washington, D.C., as well as in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. This effort will result in cost savings for the U.S. taxpayer and improved productivity for the EPA workforce.

In summary, effectively discharging the responsibilities of the Office of Administration and Resources Management is critical to meeting EPA's mission. I believe that it is in the best interest of EPA and the public to integrate mission goals and effective management. If confirmed, I pledge to bring the full weight of my experience and abilities in order to further that integration.

Let me close by expressing my appreciation to the Committee for your recognition of and support for the Agency's vital mission. Thank you for the opportunity to appear here today. I'd like to thank my parents, who are here today, for their continued love and support. I'd also like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the Members of the Committee for the courtesies extended to them today. At this time, I would be pleased to take any questions that you may have.