IT decision-makers in state and local government think budget constraints are the biggest threat to their respective IT organizations and federal-level IT leaders claim cyberattacks are their biggest threat, according to a new survey released by Cisco.

The survey, released on Thursday, Oct. 3, was conducted by nonpartisan research firm Clarus Research Group, and consisted of responses gathered from 400 federal, state and local government decision-makers through online and telephone interviews, according to Cisco.

According to Cisco executives, this is their most comprehensive survey to date pertaining to public-sector IT. Questions covered an array of topics including broadband, software defined networking and law enforcement technologies.

But results showed a heavy focus on cybersecurity matters in government. Although 35 percent of respondents said budget constraints were the biggest threat to their IT infrastructure, 17 percent said that cyberattacks were the biggest threat, and 22 percent of respondents volunteered that all options offered on the survey (budget constraints, cyberattacks, limited bandwidth, increased demand for constituent services and employee personal devices) are collectively considered the greatest threat to IT organization.

Key Findings

Cisco Connected Government Study

  • Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they thought government should increase spending in new technology for education.
  • Seventy-nine percent said they think most elected officials do not have a good understanding of how technology can be used to protect, serve and educate U.S. citizens.
  • Forty-seven percent believe the U.S. is falling behind other developed countries on broadband deployment.
  • Sixty-two percent think most state and local police departments are not fully using the latest law enforcement technologies for public safety.

Even with deteriorating budgets, IT decision-makers still hope to minimize the threat of cyberattacks by investing more money to prevent them. Survey results showed that 59 percent of respondents said they plan to increase investment in cybersecurity within the next year, whereas 45 percent planned to increase investment in cloud computing, and 42 percent said networking.

Dan Lohrmann, Michigan’s chief security officer, agreed that the percentages sounded accurate for the government space and that his IT organization plans to make cybersecurity investment one of its top priorities.

“The ever-changing landscape of cyberthreats means that further upgrades are imperative,” Lohrmann said. “In Michigan, we will be making investments in all three [cybersecurity, cloud and networking].”

Efforts to combat cyberattacks are being led at the federal level, although more state and local governments are making cybersecurity a bigger priority, said Kim Majerus, vice president of state and local government and education for Cisco. Majerus added that CIOs that run state networks, in particular, are putting more energy into cybersecurity, looking to the federal government for best practices.

And ramping up these efforts will mean more investment. To strengthen cybersecurity efforts, the federal government intends to spend more than $13 billion in cybersecurity, $1 billion more than what it currently spends, according to the fiscal 2014 budget.

Larry Payne, vice president of the federal organization for Cisco, said survey results showed that IT leaders find the issue of cybersecurity to be bigger than just the technology, but that enforcement and training around cybersecurity is equally important.

“I think [IT officials] do see cyber as much broader than a technology problem. It’s also about policy, it’s about your process,” Payne said. “I think that’s the key that we found is there is no single answer to the cybersecurity issue; it’s really about a holistic view."

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.