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Dr. George O. Strawn

Dr. George O. Strawn

As the National Science Foundation’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), Dr. George O. Strawn guides the agency in the development and design of innovative information technology—working to enable NSF staff and the international community of scientists, engineers and educators to improve business practices and pursue new methods of scientific communication, collaboration and decision-making. More specifically, the CIO’s primary objectives are to:

  1. Ensure that information technology is acquired and information resources are managed effectively;
  2. Develop, maintain and facilitate a sound and integrated information technology architecture; and
  3. Promote the effective and efficient design and operation of all major information resources management processes for the agency, including improvements to work processes.

Since joining the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1991, Dr. Strawn has served NSF in numerous roles. For the past four years (1999-2002), prior to his appointment as CIO, Dr. Strawn worked in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), serving three years as the Executive Officer and one year as the Acting Assistant Director. From 1995 through 1998 he was Director of the CISE Division of Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research where, among other things, he led NSF's efforts in the Presidential Next Generation Internet Initiative, an initiative that created the first national high performance network testbed.

Notably, Dr. Strawn was the NSFNET Program Director from 1991 to 1993, overseeing the progression of the NSFNET backbone network from DS-1 capacity (1.5 megabits per second) to become the first national DS-3 Internet network (45 megabits per second). From 1993 to 1995, he continued in a part-time capacity with NSF and was involved with defining and deploying the "new" (privatized) Internet architecture.

Prior to working at NSF, Dr. Strawn was a computer science faculty member at Iowa State University (ISU) for a number of years, where he also held several administrative positions. From 1986 to 1995 he served as Director of the ISU Computation Center. Under his leadership, ISU became a charter member of the regional NSFNET network, MIDnet, and ISU created a thousand-workstation academic system based on an extension of the MIT Athena system. From 1983 to 1986 he served as Chair of the ISU Computer Science Department. Under his leadership, the computer science program was among the first in the nation to be accredited by the then-new Computer Science Accreditation Board.

Dr. Strawn currently serves as co-chair of both the interagency Large Scale Networking Working Group and the international Coordinating Committee for Intercontinental Research Networks. He has also served as co-chair of the interagency Federal Networking Council from 1995 to 1997.

Dr. Strawn also has held several positions in the computer industry and has worked as an information technology consultant in both private industry and government. He holds a PhD in Mathematics from Iowa State University and an undergraduate degree from Cornell College.

Electronic Initiatives

With the active support of NSF Director Dr. Rita Colwell, NSF became the first Federal Government organization to electronically conduct its business interactions with customers. This unprecedented milestone was achieved through the development of FastLane---an NSF-built, interactive real-time system used to conduct NSF business over the Internet.


The FastLane system includes scores of capabilities that support the full life cycle of Federal research grant administration. These capabilities include proposal submission, proposal review, process tracking, award notification, final reports submission, cash payments, and generalized searching capabilities.

In 2001, NSF distributed over $2.5 billion annually via FastLane’s web interface. FastLane allows funds to be electronically deposited directly into an awardee’s bank account. NSF currently receives over 12,000 requests a year, with approximately 40 to 60 grantees per day requesting and receiving cash through FastLane. To date, over 99.8 percent of all Federal Cash Transaction Reports are submitted via FastLane every quarter. This accounts for approximately 30,000 active NSF awards with a total net award value of almost $12.8 billion.

Federal Commons

NSF plays a key leadership role in inter-agency electronic grant initiatives. In support of the mission of the Federal Commons—the standardization of electronic grant processes and interfaces—NSF continues to provide proactive support and guidance. Given the success of FastLane, NSF has emerged as a leader in this area. Most recently, NSF provided the Federal Commons with a web-based, eXtensible Markup Language (XML) application that allows the on-line submission of proposals to the Federal Commons.


Under the direction of the CIO and the ADP Security Officer, an agency-wide certification and accreditation policy was established. All NSF IT systems that are considered mission critical are in the process of being certified and accredited or have been certified and accredited. In accordance with OMB Circular A-130, Appendix III, NSF has taken a proactive approach toward IT security. All systems that directly affect the operation of the agency, such as systems that process financial, payroll, or statistical data are continually reviewed to ensure that appropriate security measures are in place.

The role of physical security is also critical. Vulnerabilities that occur in physical security can directly impact IT security—there is a direct tie between the two. With more than 50,000 visitors per year at NSF, the badging system is a mission critical operation, one that is continually reassessed.

Integrated Payroll System

NSF’s Integrated Payroll System (IPAY) was a major development effort that required the reengineering of the old system, which resided on a 20–year–old minicomputer, to a modern state-of-the-art integrated application that operates within NSF’s client/server environment. This improvement allows payroll activities to be driven by information about employees’ personnel actions and leave activities delivered directly from the source database. Some of the benefits of IPAY include increased customer satisfaction with the new self-service function for employees and the generation of electronic leave and earning statements that are more detailed and always available.

Financial Accounting System

The implementation of the new NSF Financial Accounting System (FAS) involved the reengineering of an outdated mainframe-based system to a windows-based, integrated client/server system. To ensure a smooth transition, the new FAS system was implemented in phases. With the system now fully implemented, performance has remained stable. Customers throughout the agency are pleased with the results, from both a functional and ease-of-use perspective.


eRecruit is NSF's new web-based vacancy announcement and application system. It provides an easy way for applicants to search and apply for jobs online. Job seekers can create, save, update and submit applications for vacancies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Once a resume is in the eRecruit system, applicants can apply for a vacancy in minutes by responding to a series of questions specifically created for that position. Job seekers are immediately notified that their applications have been received. Managers can review application packages on line. Once a selection is made, applicants are electronically notified of the outcome of their job search.

Supporting the Mission

In support of NSF’s mission, these new capabilities along with others provide the agency with a robust, modern information technology infrastructure. Many of our initiatives also lay the groundwork for the use of new and promising technologies in the coming years. We will continue working with staff and our customers to expand our horizons in information technology.


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