CIOs push security, data sharing

'Everyone talks about cybersecurity, but no one knows what it means.'

'Virginia CIO George Newstrom

J. Adam Fenster

Eighteen state CIOs came to Washington for two whirlwind days last month to meet with Congress as part of the third annual D.C. 'fly-in' sponsored by the National Association of State CIOs.

The CIOs held 73 meetings with senators and representatives in a single day, said Gerry Wethington, NASCIO president and Missouri CIO. The CIOs talked with legislators about cybersecurity, homeland security, interoperability, spam and identity theft.

Wethington presented NASCIO's first Technology Champion award to Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) at a luncheon at the Rayburn House Office Building. NASCIO established the award to recognize an individual for outstanding contributions in the field of IT policy.

Accepting the award, Davis said he is working on several IT initiatives, including one involving Freedom of Information Act reforms. He was alarmed, he said, to learn that 'we found General Accounting Office reports in caves in Afghanistan.'

Davis said he and fellow Virginian George Newstrom, the state's CIO, were both members of 'the digital party. This is the party that understands the world is changing, the economy is changing and the government needs to keep up.'

He advised CIOs to maintain a healthy skepticism. 'We pass a lot of goofy laws up here. You all are the ones who have to sort them out,' he said.

Newstrom bemoaned the security holes in government offices, such as 'the Post-It notes next to the computer.' He said he tells people that's like leaving a wallet or purse on their car's dashboard''Then they get it.'

Hidden meaning

'Everyone talks about cybersecurity, but no one knows what it means,' Newstrom said. 'It's like the year 2000 issue was in 1995. People just knew it was there, looming.'

'Cybersecurity it not just hardware and software,' Kentucky CIO Aldona Valicenti said. 'It's much more policy and training.' Valicenti said that the fly-in gave the CIOs a chance to impress Congress with the importance of an enterprise architecture that would promote data sharing.

'I kept hearing folks preface their remarks with 'Don't worry, I'm not a lobbyist,' like that's a bad thing,' Wisconsin CIO Matt Miszewski said. 'We didn't come here with our hands out, asking for money.' Instead, offering NASCIO as a resource made members of Congress more receptive, Miszewski said.

Nevada CIO Terry Savage said his goal was to get each lawmaker he met to remember one issue. Savage, who is on the Nevada Homeland Security Commission, said he made real progress on an interoperable radio frequency for first responders in his state.

'I got two e-mails this morning from congressional people,' Delaware CIO Tom Jarrett said. 'I'll probably be bombarded, but I'd rather have the dialogue than not.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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