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.