Six months ago, UCAR president, Richard Anthes asked Jack Fellows, UCAR vice-president for Corporate Affairs and director of the UCAR Office of Programs, and me to "guest-write" the President's Corner, reflecting on our first year at UCAR. Jack took the first shift, and now it's my turn.
My move to Boulder and UCAR has been, and continues to be, a great experience. Waking up every morning to a view of the Foothills of the Rockies inspires an awe of nature that was not possible during my previous 20 years in the Washington, D.C., area. As beautiful as Washington is, with the monuments and the grandeur of the Capitol and the Smithsonian and countless other buildings, in my opinion, its human-made beauty cannot compete with the incredible beauty of the mountains.
After 22 years working for the federal government, I very much enjoy being at UCAR. The quality of the science done here and the unique services we provide to the university research community make UCAR a fascinating place to work. I am also very much impressed with the high caliber of the UCAR workforce in the wide range of positions here.
During my time in Washington, I worked for NASA in jobs that ranged from contract negotiator to assistant associate administrator for Space Science and Applications, with responsibilities in a wide range of budget and administrative matters. I was also the director of NASA's Microgravity Science and Applications program for a year. My last position with the federal government was comptroller at the Environmental Protection Agency.
At UCAR, I'm responsible for all the administrative and facilities functions that can be a bane to the world of science or a help in ensuring that the scientists can do their job. My responsibilities include human resources, budget and finance, security, contracts, intellectual property, facilities maintenance and engineering, health, safety, environment, treasury and investment management and administrative information technology and applications.
This is an interesting time to be an administrator in a mostly federally sponsored corporation. A host of laws aimed at government agencies has been passed over the last five or ten years. Now that I am on the "other side," I can see the impact of these laws on those of us who get funding from the government. Examples of this legislation include the Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act, which requires federal agencies to balance their financial books--something they never were required to do before--and the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), which, as its name implies, requires the federal agencies to lay out their goals and strategies to accomplish these goals and to report annually on their progress. This legislation will flow down and affect UCAR and all universities. The provisions of these laws set new standards for fiscal and program accountability, standards all of us will be required to meet.
At UCAR, the impacts primarily involve more detailed record keeping and the development of additional procedures to carefully track our own assets and the government assets we hold. For example, the CFO Act has heightened scrutiny of property and equipment, from desktop computers to supercomputers. The need for federal agencies to carefully account for all property bought through their contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements has put added burden on us. We also must maintain a complicated accounting system to accurately capture costs on our multitude of agreements.
We have also seen an increase in the number of administrative reviews and audits our federal sponsors conduct. Our indirect costs have been reviewed in detail, as have our property management system and travel practices. I'm happy to report that we have had no significant audit findings.
Internally, we are making some changes for the better in Finance and Administration (F&A), with a goal of better serving the technical side of UCAR. We recently reorganized to raise the importance and awareness of health, safety, and environment and also of administrative information technology. We have also significantly streamlined the travel process, giving UCAR travelers more flexibility and fewer constraints. We have developed and implemented a data warehouse project, which provides easier access to financial, contract, and human resources information. We plan to automate many administrative processes, including time-keeping, travel, and purchasing. When completed, these automation projects will greatly reduce the administrative burden and help us keep our administrative costs down.
One of the most exciting projects now under way is the refurbishment of the Mesa Laboratory. Designed by I.M. Pei, the lab is a spectacular facility, one that has won numerous architectural awards. Unfortunately, the building is over 30 years old and showing its age. Colorado sunshine and winters have resulted in the deterioration of much of the unique pink stone of the Mesa Lab. Over the next five years, we will conduct various projects to correct problems and improve infrastructure. One of our first major projects will be the redesign of the tree plaza in the summer of 2000. Redesign and resurfacing of the main drive will follow that, providing improved access for the disabled. We will also make substantial infrastructure improvements, including lighting, airflow, and fire suppression. The infrastructure improvements will necessitate finding off-site office space for building occupants during construction. This will be done in stages, with as little disruption to research as we can manage. If you come to see us during the project, I apologize in advance for the mess!
It's an exciting time at UCAR as we prepare for our 40th anniversary next year. I am delighted to be a part of it.