State CIOs take flight

It was a fly-in, not a love-in, but there were still plenty of positive developments during meetings between 15 state CIOs and legislators on Capitol Hill last week. The CIOs came from as far away as Utah and New Mexico to meet with legislators in Washington, D.C., for the fourth annual fly-in sponsored by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.

The CIOs had 70 meetings over two days with legislators on cybersecurity, enterprise architecture, federal IT funding reform, homeland security, privacy, procurement and wireless-communications interoperability.

This year's visit showed marked improvement in the ongoing dialogue between states and the federal government, said Gerry Wethington, Missouri CIO and NASCIO president. For example, some of the legislators brought up the importance of integrating geographic information system technology, Wethington said. 'They raised the issue, not us,' he said.

NASCIO also has made considerable headway in communicating to the legislators the importance of states' IT security and enterprise architecture, Wethington said. A few years ago, nobody talked about enterprise architecture. Now it's part of the legislators' language, he said.

On the issue of homeland security, the CIOs asked that cybersecurity and interoperability costs be included as 'allowable expenses,' Wethington said. Much of the money has gone into 'boots and suits,' the hazmat equipment that first responders need. But states also need a communications infrastructure that works. The legislators said they were going to focus on this concern, Wethington said.

Progress has been made, but there are still serious gaps in first-responder communications, Wethington said. In January, when a tanker truck fell off an overpass near Baltimore, first responders were confused about who was on the scene.

'Technology has to be refreshed,' said South Dakota CIO Otto Doll. 'We allow this technology to be around way too long.'

Destroying silos has recently been a popular goal, said Matthew Miszewski, Wisconsin CIO. 'But we've got to be careful not to build a bigger silo [for wireless interoperability], so nobody can talk to anybody.'

Cybersecurity now encompasses much more than viruses and worms, Wethington said. 'There really are vulnerabilities. Somebody can take down a water supply system [through cyberspace],' he said.

These problems can't be solved piecemeal, said Val Oveson, CIO of Utah. It will take an integrated approach, with state, local and federal governments working together.

'We don't need to make another information superhighway,' Wethington said. 'We need to leverage what we have.' CIOs need to incorporate their existing investments, Wethington said, not do a 'forklift upgrade.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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