"The state will not be able to achieve a statewide IT vision until it coordinates the planning that guides each department and agency with that vision." -- The Governor's Task Force on Government Technology Policy and Procurement, 1994.

"There is no overall coordination of the state's use of technology, resulting in functions that are poorly organized, duplicative and inefficient from a statewide perspective." -- California Performance Review, 2004.

Reading these observations -- which are taken out of a larger context but still instructive -- suggests two less-than-glowing conclusions: California clearly has not learned its lesson, and never underestimate the power of inertia.

It's an open secret that California, arguably the epicenter of technological innovation in this country, operates a state government IT environment that's as fragmented and siloed as any in the nation. California's technology shortcomings are documented in numerous reports from investigative entities such as the Legislative Analyst's Office and the Bureau of State Audits, but little has changed. Until now, perhaps.

Lighting the Fuse

Around the state Capitol in Sacramento, observers say Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's combination of star power and political muscle may give California its best shot in years at real government reform -- including changes in how the massive state government purchases, deploys and uses information technology.

Schwarzenegger made reform a key component of his administration since riding into office on a wave of voter dissatisfaction that led to the dumping of Gov. Gray Davis in the middle of his term. One of the new governor's first moves was commissioning the high-profile California Performance Review (CPR) to recommend changes for making state government more responsive to citizens and businesses.

Schwarzenegger tapped California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Director Chon Gutierrez and Texas Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton to lead the CPR. Gutierrez is a veteran of California government and Hamilton helped President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore create their National Performance Review.

In August 2004, the CPR released a four-volume report, Government for the People for a Change, focusing on reorganization of the executive branch, program performance assessment and budgeting, improved services and productivity, and acquisition reform.

Schwarzenegger signaled his intention to implement CPR reforms in his Jan. 5 State of the State address.

"A year ago, I told you that I wanted to blow up the boxes," he said. "Well, we have lit the fuse. The California Performance Review has done an outstanding job. Two hundred eighty-five people have worked for nine months looking at how to eliminate duplication and increase accountability in government."

J. Clark Kelso, California CIO and the governor's special adviser on information technology, calls Schwarzenegger relentlessly optimistic and confident in his ability to succeed. Those qualities will be tested as the governor pushes the CPR reforms, a high-stakes gamble that includes changing how California teachers are paid, altering the process for drawing state legislative districts and reforming state employee pension plans.

Kelso, named state CIO by Democrat Davis before he left office and retained by Schwarzenegger, compares the new chief executive to another popular California governor: Ronald Reagan.

"Reagan had the same type of critics who, at times, said, 'How can you be this optimistic when this is the situation?'" Kelso said. "It's that type of optimism that I think, with Arnold, is infectious when you're around him. He makes you feel like things actually can happen -- like it's actually going to go this way."

As pundits have noted in editorial or political pages, Schwarzenegger isn't easy to pin down. He's a fiscal conservative, but he's a social moderate. He fought hard for passage of Proposition 49, which called for about a half-billion dollars in state spending on after-school programs, and he supports stem cell research

Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor