KIMBERLY TERESE NELSON
FOR ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
UNITED STATES SENATE
October 17, 2001
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. It is a privilege and a pleasure to appear before you as the nominee to be the Assistant Administrator for Environmental Information and Chief Information Officer for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I am honored that President Bush has nominated me to serve with Administrator Whitman in this Administration. I am pleased to be joined today by my husband, Kevin Cadden, my two daughters, Kelsey and Mackenzie, my father, George Nelson, and my aunt, Florence Bodziak.
As the former first Chief Information Officer for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania=s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), I understand firsthand the critical role that environmental information plays in sound environmental decision making. I also understand how rapid, sweeping, and profound information technology advancements are creating expectations for government to keep pace with the private sector.
The need for strong public administrators has never been more evident than during the past month, when our country experienced such devastating loss. The events since September 11th have crystallized the nation=s understanding of its reliance on technology for basic operations, human communications, and comprehension of the disaster experienced. This reliance now causes all public administrators, and particularly those in the technology and information arena, to reexamine and strengthen our programs, our security systems, and the quality of our information. I am both honored and challenged to contribute to our Nation=s preparedness in these areas.
I believe it is the obligation of all government officials to create and manage organizations that allow our citizens to access information and services with minimal bureaucratic barriers. The information that we provide must be of exceptional quality and supported with analytical tools which facilitate its use for assessing and managing risk, and for measuring our environmental improvements. The services that we provide must be fast and error free. Most important, these services must be convenient for the public, even if that means crossing traditional organizational lines.
Today, EPA and the States are working hard to provide consistently high quality environmental information. EPA=s strong commitment to public access must always be balanced by the need to protect privacy and maintain the integrity and security of our information policies. The events of September 11th also underline that our commitment to public access carries the responsibility to review carefully our publicly available products to ensure that, while benefitting the public, they do not contribute to compromising sensitive or vulnerable resources or facilities.
We know that the environmental challenges of the 21st century cannot be solved by EPA alone - they will require us to partner and cooperate with many others. We must join with States, Tribes, local governments, businesses, and communities to design and disseminate user-focused information products that provide a clear understanding of environmental conditions and solutions.
If confirmed, I intend to promote the President=s principles for government reform to make EPA more citizen-centered, results-oriented, and market-based. I will assist Administrator Whitman in this effort by helping to sharpen the focus of EPA=s environmental information strategies, reduce burden on industries, promote intergovernmental cooperation, and apply best practices to achieve internal efficiencies.
I am fortunate that EPA has many important building blocks in place. I hope to use these solid efforts as a springboard to accomplish lasting change. And, by continuing to build partnerships between the Federal government and those concerned with environmental protection, I believe we can achieve a goal that we all share B to leave the air cleaner, the water purer, and the land better protected than we found it.
I will work to lead the Agency to make technology investments that will provide long-term value for the Agency, investments that will be good for all EPA programs. However, I recognize that the application of technology is the easy part. Far more important is achieving transformation using technology as the enabler for meeting the needs of citizens and employees alike, and using information as a strategic resource for environmental decisions at all levels.
It is my vision that one day EPA staff, the Agency=s partners, and the general public will be able to:
easily access all relevant non-sensitive environmental information about regulated entities regardless of program or regulating agency;
easily access all relevant non-sensitive environmental information about a physical location, even when that information is gathered by different government agencies;
improve interaction with, and understanding of, the regulated community including changing the way information is reported;
more effectively measure environmental conditions; and
enhance understanding of the interrelationship between EPA activities, compliance behavior, pollution prevention, and environmental improvements.
Of course, achieving this vision will require extensive collaboration with my fellow Assistant Administrators, Federal agencies and departments, State and tribal partners, the regulated community, and others.
I believe these activities will contribute significantly toward burden reduction, improved data quality and security, more informed environmental decision making, and greater flexibility for States to manage environmental programs. And we can do this while continuing to meet the public=s demands for better environmental information in a more secure environment.
I am a strong believer in the commitment it takes to work in government service. My family has a long history of government service. My father retired from the Navy Department with forty years of service. Earlier this year, my younger brother retired from the Air Force with 20 years of service, and my two older brothers served during the Vietnam conflict. After 28 years in State government, my husband is now Director of External Affairs at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
I, too, have served in government -- 22 years with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. More than half of my career has been spent in a State environmental protection department. During that time I helped develop and implement a blueprint for integrating DEP=s program-specific computer systems. I managed several Process Improvement Teams that significantly changed the department=s permitting and compliance processes and made information about these activities available to the public in an award-winning system. Finally, I created the first Office of Information Technology, the first executive level CIO in the department.
I am now both ready and enthusiastic to join public service at the Federal level as the Assistant Administrator for Environmental Information and the Chief Information Officer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I am confident that I can bring the necessary vision, leadership, and experience to work with our partners to achieve those things I have addressed today.
Should I be confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to working with this Committee, Members of Congress, Administrator Whitman, and the entire Administration to make the environment better for all Americans and to be responsive to the citizens we serve.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.