Patricia Dunnington

Patricia Dunnington

Chief Information Officer

The space shuttle's return to flight July 26 was one of the biggest events in Internet history. Web users watched about 433,000 simultaneous streams of NASA TV through Yahoo! and Akamai Technologies during Discovery's launch. The webcast exemplifies the value that Chief Information Officer Patricia Dunnington strives to add to NASA's mission. "Facilitating access of the citizen to public information-that's an area that we've really excelled in," says Dunnington, a 23-year NASA veteran named CIO in 2003.

Under her leadership, NASA quickly achieved "green" status in e-government on the President's Management Agenda score card. The space agency's status was red in September that year, improved to yellow in December and turned green in September 2004. NASA developed an enterprise architecture that guides decisions about how the agency invests the $2 billion a year it devotes to information technology management. "There's no one person [who] can make things like this happen," Dunnington says.

One of her most exciting challenges as CIO has been building a public Web portal that standardizes the information products of 10 disparate field installations and satisfies unprecedented information demand during special events such as the Discovery launch. Akamai, the content provider, has expanded the portal's available bandwidth by a factor of 30. Increasing public traffic required a security trade-off. To protect its internal network, NASA lined up external providers. "That arrangement enables us to respond with initial capability very quickly," Dunnington says, "[and] flexible outsourcing arrangements allow us to spike when we need to."

A recognized leader in the federal CIO community, Dunnington has won numerous awards for transforming NASA's information infrastructure to enable its mission. Her next challenge: an agencywide management scheme for 10 separate NASA e-mail services.