Winning the war requires far more coopera

Otto Doll

Since the terrorist events of Sept. 11, I have observed a disturbing lack of cooperation, collaboration and understanding among federal, state and local governments. Problems also have arisen among agencies at each level of government. Whether this is due to office politics, real politics, clashing egos, turf battles or whatever, we need to restore the spirit of unity that prevailed in September.

I recognize a lot of useful, hard work is being done on the war against terrorism. But why do we make it so hard on ourselves? Why is the not-invented-here syndrome so strong? Look at the spats among the FBI and state and local law enforcement agencies. Heaven forbid we work across jurisdictional boundaries and share all the information.

The White House continues to talk only sporadically with governors about urgent concerns. One such issue was keeping track of emergency vehicles. But when one talks to state fire marshals or CIOs across the country, not everyone has gotten the same message'some are not even pursuing the issue at all.

By the time you read this, South Dakota will have such a system in place. But did another state already implement such a system? Is there a better way to do the job? I will only find out after the fact, if ever.

Now the federal government is isolating itself from everyone else via the GovNet concept. What if states did the same? With 51 separate, isolated networks, we may be able to survive individually, but we lose our collective strength. The every-man-for-himself approach is not what the country has done in the past during its greatest crises.

I suggest four remedies to the problem. First, we must gain each other's trust. I respect my fellow CIOs. I respect other federal, state and local officials in their areas of expertise. But unless we respect each other's particular situations and feel comfortable that we are all advancing together, we will stay forever divided. And we will fail.

We must also collaborate more. The various organizations we belong to need to meet this challenge. Meeting face-to-face is not always necessary. Even CIOs seem to shy away from using the technologies we promote in our states, such as videoconferencing, conference calls and chat groups. We should be talking with each other routinely about our challenges and needs. We have a lot more in common than we might be willing to admit. Solutions will result from those discussions. I don't know about you, but I am willing to use a good solution from anywhere.

Education on matters of terrorism is essential to our collective success. Everyone needs an accurate understanding of our foes. I now have learned far more about anthrax, aircraft, emergency vehicles and other paraphernalia of 21st century warfare than I ever expected. But without such an understanding, how can my organization provide technology to combat terror? If people are ignorant on a given subject, do we keep them that way to protect them?

Finally, long-term policies need to be revamped. Many solutions for combating terrorism will fall under process. Agencies must establish protocols for sharing information, and not necessarily just law enforcement data. Privacy and security issues have already come to the forefront of national discussion. From national identifiers to surveillance, the shape of U.S. society is changing'and IT organizations will change with it.

Unless we unite our resources and our minds, the war on terrorism will be long and perilous. Let us put trust in ourselves and in our government back into the quotient in the war on terrorism'it's one of our greatest strengths and one of our greatest weapons.

Otto Doll, South Dakota's CIO, formerly worked in federal IT and was president of the National Association of State Information Resource Executives.


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