Homeland security chief Ridge supports IT

Homeland security chief Ridge supports IT

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, named last night to be director of the new, cabinet-level Homeland Security Office, uses IT in his state to improve government administration and spur economic development.

'They're doing many things with the IT infrastructure' in Pennsylvania, said Aldona Valicenti, president of the National Association of State CIOs and Kentucky's CIO. 'They are working to re-engineer processes and see how IT can work efficiently and effectively to meet the business needs of the state.'

Ridge will 'lead, oversee and coordinate a comprehensive national strategy to safeguard our country against terrorism and respond to any attacks that may come," President Bush said during his televised speech last night.

The new security office will replace an Office of National Preparedness that Bush mandated in May. Federal Emergency Management Agency director Joe Allbaugh, who reported to Vice President Dick Cheney, headed that office. The preparedness office, like the new Homeland Security Office, was charged with coordinating many federal, state and local agencies' actions in response to weapons of mass destruction.

As governor, Ridge forged contracts with Microsoft Corp., SAP America Inc. of Newtown Square, Pa., and Unisys Corp.

"Gov. Ridge was here on our campus this spring to talk about the project SAP is doing for the commonwealth," said Bill Wohl, director of public relations for SAP America. 'He talked about empowering 93,000 state employees to have access to information to better serve residents. It was his vision to transform the system even further so residents could have access electronically to government services.'

Under the SAP contract, Pennsylvania's government is adopting mySAP enterprise resource planning software for financial management, human resources, budgeting, payroll and purchasing. When the project began under the state's fiscal 2001 budget, officials estimated it would cost $180 million.

The ERP project, called Imagine PA, will cost $40.5 million for SAP software and maintenance over three years.

Ridge has steadily increased state IT spending. Pennsylvania CIO Charles Gerhards said recently that his office's budget has grown from $137 million last year to $190 million in fiscal 2002. Other state agencies also devote funds to IT projects.

Ridge also consolidated several state data centers into one and speeded up implementation of electronic government projects.

An attorney and Pennsylvania native, Ridge served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star for valor. He worked as a district attorney before being elected to Congress in 1982 for the first of seven terms. Ridge became Pennsylvania's governor in 1995 and was re-elected in 1998 with 57 percent of the vote in a four-way race. His 780,000-vote margin was the largest ever for a Republican governor in the heavily Democratic state.

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