Q&A With the NRC’s Chief Information Officer

Darren Ash recently received the Executive Leadership Award in Information Resources Management from the Association for Federal Information Resources Management (a non-profit organization with a goal of improving the management of information, and related systems and resources, within the federal government).

Darren Ash
Darren Ash

Q. In a nutshell, what does your job at the NRC entail?

My job responsibilities are diverse, to say the least. My job ranges from running our data center, overseeing the development of new technology systems, internal cybersecurity efforts, staffing and leadership development, contracting, to maintaining our facilities…and this is just a subset! I also wear other “hats” besides Chief Information Officer. I also serve as the NRC’s Chief Freedom of Information Act Officer and Senior Agency Official for Open Government. What I have come to appreciate are the interdependencies among the different topics, and the importance of collaboration, coordination, and communication – between offices within the NRC and external to the agency as well.

Q. How does information management help the NRC achieve its safety and security mission?

I believe we’re an agency of “knowledge workers” comprised of an incredibly talented, diverse workforce. Our staff’s work, whether it is inspecting, incident response, licensing, finance, or human resource management, is dependent upon having the right information at the right time, in the office or remotely. This means staff needs modern information systems and tools. We already have some important mobile tools in place to support our staff, and based on feedback and a recent pilot, we’ll be expanding and improving mobile capabilities in late summer.

Q. What is the biggest challenge for the NRC in terms of technology/IT/information management?

There are two challenges that immediately come to mind. The first is expanding our capabilities to best support mobility. This includes improving tools for our staff, but more importantly, improving how the public interacts with us in an ever-increasingly mobile world. The second is simply keeping up with changes in technology. Technology is advancing and evolving rapidly, and organizations – both public sector and private sector – are challenged to keep up. One approach we are taking is to focus on information contained in our systems. This will allow us to design or modernize our systems the right way, so that as technology changes we’re able to adapt more easily.

Q. What do you think is the most important IT service the NRC offers to the public?

I believe it is access to information about the NRC and what we do as a regulator. We’ve been listening to feedback, and are committed to making improvements, whether it is an improved search capability, doing a better job at making sure content is current, or simply ensuring that important issues are easy to find. I realize people want access to inspection reports, policy issues, research, and licensing and enforcement actions. As we say in our Open Government section of our website, we see “nuclear regulation as the public’s business.” That means we strive to have the technology in place to allow the public to access information and be able to participate meaningfully in what we do.

 

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

5 thoughts on “Q&A With the NRC’s Chief Information Officer”

  1. Darren Ash
    Salute for your reply and the help phone number, hopefully it will be posted on every search page, since its use will give you a good feedback method to gauge changes…

    Suggest you add a few non-NRC types to the “how to improve the NRC meetings” I’m sure that it will not only only speed things up, but also help everyone to Think Above The Box…

  2. We are always looking for ways to improve our communications and appreciate your feedback. The NRC is fairly unique among federal agencies in the amount of information that is made available to the public. We recognize there are challenges in using ADAMS, which is why we created a users group that focuses on how to improve the ADAMS user experience. Anyone interested in joining may do so, more information can be found at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams/users-group.html. And anyone having trouble locating what they need on ADAMS can always contact our public document room at 1-800-397-4209. That line is staffed by professional librarians who are very knowledgeable and adept at navigating ADAMS.

    The Chairman has tasked the staff with looking at how we can improve NRC meetings, and an initiative to do that will be starting soon. Using participation technologies such as webinars will certainly be looked at as part of that initiative.

    Darren Ash

  3. Our blog is published via a widely-used third party site, WordPress. As we state in our disclaimer, moderation and posting of comments will generally occur only during NRC regular business hours, Monday through Friday. That policy reflects the fact that our professional public affairs staff manages the blog, among many competing priorities.
    Darren Ash

  4. Darren Ash
    One more suggestion, please install a far better BLOG software package so that readers can better communicate with each other and the NRC, this one is very poor, as is the time required for “moderation” which reduces the very dialogue that this Blog is designed to facilitate!

  5. RE: “I believe it is access to information about the NRC and what we do as a regulator.”

    Darren Ash, you have lots of “arch up” cork to do because unless one is very familiar with the ADAMS system it is almost impossible to navigate!

    I challenge you to ask a cross section of your fellow NRC workers to find the last San Onofre Region IV AIT Report and the public responses submitted about it, and time them doing it. I predict that most will be unable to find anything except generic info in less than 10 minutes.

    I also suggest that you ask several non NRC people to do the same thing and then compare the results with the first group.

    FYI Just trying to get connected to an NRC webinar and getting in line to speak is a huge challenge, which is unacceptable in this day and age. I have been on the phone waiting to speak during a number of webinars only to hear the moderator say, “There are no more callers waiting to speak” so please have some of your staff look into these issues… Thanks

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