EPA Needs VARs' Help

Currently, the EPA outsources more than 90 percent of its IT projects, Nelson said at a Thursday breakfast panel discussion sponsored by the Bethesda chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). That trend will continue in 2005 as more emphasis is placed on data collection.

"We are constantly challenged by what data we need, who has that data and how we can use the data to answer tough policy questions facing the agency," Nelson said.

Extracting data is more difficult for the EPA than most agencies because information is decentralized -- 90 percent comes from states.

"We couldn't answer questions that were being asked about programs because we didn't have the information," Nelson said. "There needs to be a way to ensure there is data to demonstrate results."

Sponsored post

The EPA will therefore rely more heavily than ever on contractors to supplement internal resources and strengthen IT infrastructures for data collection. Furthermore, the agency's decision in 2004 to make all contracts performance-based will enable those contractors selected to be led by their own expertise and experience in determining the most efficient solution, with the EPA describing only the required end results.

"It's not easy for a staff to get the skillset required to handle performance-based contracts," Nelson said. "It's a different process. But we're learning, and already seeing the benefits."