E-gov, security occupy the states

E-gov, security occupy the states

FEMA CIO Ronald Miller says better communications might have prevented some of the firefighter casualties on Sept. 11.

The states, though besieged by budget deficits, a recession and threats of terrorist or systems attacks, are coping.

That was the word from Federal Sources Inc.'s State of the States conference last month in Washington. State and local officials also clamored for better communications with the federal government.

Keynoter Rock Regan, Connecticut's CIO, said the top issues facing state CIOs are 'e-gov, homeland security and oh, by the way'both.'

Cybersecurity gets scarier every day, Regan said, to the point that he meets daily with his security team.

'Cyberattacks are becoming worse, more complex, more frequent,' he said. 'Every day we see new viruses. And the biggest challenge is the end user.' Although Connecticut has tried to warn users about viruses, he said, 'You'd be surprised how many people will still open that damn e-mail attachment.'

Costas Toregas, president of Public Technology Inc. of Washington, spoke about conditions in local government. Homeland security 'is like having Y2K every day,' he said.

Toregas stressed the importance of improving relationships among government entities. 'For example, five of the 24 Quicksilver [federal] e-government initiatives are focused on the relationship among federal, state and local governments. None of these projects will succeed unless there are better connections between state and local governments and the feds,' he said.

Take the train

Other CIOs shared their experiences in making e-government workable. James Dillon, CIO of New York, said he used to be a Greyhound bus driver. He got lost in every town in New England and southern Canada. 'My motto then was, 'I'm lost, but I'm making such good time I don't want to stop,' ' Dillon said. 'That's still my motto.'

Ohio CIO Gregory Jackson agreed with Dillon and Arun Behati, director of e-government for California, that communications between federal and state governments could stand improvement. 'Although I'm pleased with the appointment of Mark Forman as e-gov czar,' Jackson said, 'I don't see the one-on-one dialogue between feds and states that I think there should be.'

Behati defended Forman. He got states to participate early in the process of setting up the
24 e-government initiatives, Behati said. 'My assumption is that he's going to come back to the states.'

Otto Doll, CIO of South Dakota, discussed the security challenges of a rural state. 'We have fewer than 10 buildings taller than two stories in the whole state,' Doll said. 'We have two escalators.' Most South Dakota communities have one sheriff, he said. 'And he doesn't carry a BlackBerry. It wouldn't work in South Dakota anyway.'

But small, rural communities perform some security measures better than highly populated areas, Doll said. 'In a small town, you know when there's something amiss.'

Suzanne Peck, chief technology officer of the District of Columbia, talked about D.C.'s communications on Sept. 11. 'Any media we had that was owned by the D.C. government operated just fine on Sept. 11,' Peck said. 'For example, our e-mail system operated fine. But any media we subscribed, leased or competed with others for was not good.'

Ronald Miller, CIO of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said FEMA director Joseph Albaugh talked with him last month about communications on Sept. 11. Albaugh said that firefighters at the World Trade Center relied on runners to deliver handwritten notes because their communications radios were overwhelmed.

Albaugh said he thought the failure was one reason why so many firefighters died, Miller said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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