Jarrett takes NASCIO reins

'More people now understand the importance of IT as it relates to the homeland security. It was ignored up until recently.'

'Tom Jarrett

Rick Steele

State CIOs try to balance demands of privacy and homeland security

As the National Association of State CIOs has seen an influx of new members in recent months, Tom Jarrett's three years as Delaware's CIO makes him a relative veteran. Now regarded as part of a core group within the organization, Jarrett last month was elected president of the association, based in Lexington, Ky., for 2004-2005.

Since he joined the association in September 2001, he has served in various capacities, including chairman of the Strategic IT Business and Services Committee and national vice president.

In addition to his job as state CIO, Jarrett also is secretary of the Delaware Department of Technology and Information, chairman of its Technology Investment Council and a member of its E911 Advisory Board.

Jarrett spoke with PostNewsweek Tech Media staff writer William Welsh about how state CIOs are coping with high turnover, expanding their influence and collaborating with federal agencies.

GCN: What are the association's top initiatives?

Jarrett: When we look at what CIOs are dealing with right now, privacy and security are very much at the top of the list, particularly as they relate to homeland security. More people now understand the im- portance of IT as it relates to homeland security. It was ignored up until recently.

GCN: Is state CIO influence becoming marginalized in comparison to other state officials, such as budget officers and agency CIOs? Are state CIOs really making a difference as state leaders?

Jarrett: I believe they are. We are seeing a shift, albeit slow, to where they are having more influence and they are becoming more of a player that the governor and key leaders in the state are reaching out to.

It all goes back to the dynamics in a particular state and to the leadership. You have to have the support of the governor and legislature, as well as good people who can im- plement what needs to be done. If any of those are missing, then it becomes really questionable.

GCN: You've said you will focus on privacy and security during your presidency. What do you hope to accomplish? How will you tackle those issues?

JARRETT: When we begin to look at the types of things a lot of CIOs are dealing with, issues around privacy and security are very much at the top of the list. They are for us here in Delaware. The fact that more and more people understand how IT relates to the whole discussion around homeland security is very important.

They ignored it up until recently. Part of what we need to do is work with [NASCIO] members and look at ways we can begin to provide information and support to our counterparts across the states. They are working issues around security and privacy.

I happen to believe that a lot needs to be done in the area of education. [We need] to educate decision makers in their own states as to why privacy and security are so important. The example I use around security is that sometimes technical people unfortunately have a tendency to get too much into 'techno-speak' and not into what it really means to the bottom line of protecting information on behalf of citizens. We have data on all of our citizens, if they have a driver's license and all of those kinds of things.

I think the committee structure we set up is very focused on that. We have a new privacy committee and we also will have an information security committee. All of our committees are important but those are two that are near and dear to my heart and hopefully will drive that forward.

I want to see us work more with organizations that focus on the state level, such as the Council of State Government and National Council of State Legislatures. Federal legislation seems to take a considerable amount of time from inception to when it is actually done, so you have time to deal with that. But at the state level, I spend most of my time dealing with legislative issues that come out of my legislature and not from the feds. It's just a fact of life.

GCN: How is NASCIO increasing the information sharing between state, local and federal agencies? What are some of the biggest challenges that remain for sharing information better?

JARRETT: NASCIO continues to become a voice at the federal level, and this drives the deeper connections needed to ensure in- creased sharing between all jurisdictions. It has already helped with the work through the Homeland Security Department.

Many challenges still remain due to the fact that the different areas operate differently. I believe that the focus on enterprise architecture is beginning to have an effect since this starts the process for building networks the same, independent of where they are located, and builds them with a standards approach in mind.

GCN: What can the federal government learn from the successes of state and local governments in areas such as e-government, share-in-savings contracting and IT consolidation?

JARRETT: I think the biggest thing the federal government can learn from the successes in the states is the kinds of changes that have been required to see the kind of successes that have come about. Many states have proven that real change can be accomplished if the right people come together and focus on common goals to meet the needs of our customers.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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