Lem Stewart leads the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA). Since taking over as CIO in 2004, Stewart directed the consolidation of more than 90 technology agencies into one organization, part of an overhaul of Virginia IT operations that includes a contract with Northrop Grumman valued at approximately $2 billion over 10 years.

The company will operate and maintain Virginia's server, mainframe, desktop and network operations. The contract calls for a new $22.8 million, 130,000-square-foot help desk and backup data center, which Virginia officials expect to create more than 400 new jobs. Besides the data center, the contract calls for a new $34.6 million 167,000-square-foot operations center that will house 631 VITA and Northrop Grumman employees.

Virginia ranked second in the nation in the Center for Digital Government's 2006 biennial Digital States Survey -- improving from third in 2004 -- and fifth in the Center's 2005 Best of the Web contest. In 2005, the Government Performance Project recognized Virginia as the best managed state, awarding it an A- in the information category -- a high mark only shared by four other states. Virginia won two NASCIO 2004 Recognition Awards for VITA's Virginia Geographic Information Network program and Public Safety Communications Division e-911 services.

What are the latest updates regarding the contract?

Plans to modernize the commonwealth's infrastructure are proceeding as scheduled. Our primary data center construction in Chesterfield County is well under way -- it should be watertight in the next few weeks. We have also begun to improve our infrastructure support processes and matured our plans to roll out new technologies.

Will this partnership help develop "interoperability" between Virginia government agencies, and if so, how?

We believe so. Driving process-based improvements, an integrated statewide Internet protocol network and office automation technologies like enterprisewide messaging, which includes functionality such as directory services, calendar and e-mail, will foster improvements in interoperability.

Do you foresee collaborative technology partnerships between state and local governments as a result of this contract?

By implementing a statewide integrated data and voice network infrastructure, we feel the opportunity to benefit local governments is very real. We have begun discussions with several local entities from the public safety area to take advantage of not only the network, but also hosting services for shared emergency service programs among multiple local entities. In addition, our two new secure computer facilities will be open to local governments for their use to support computer operations, disaster recovery and the enhanced need for a more secure information environment.

Some say this partnership is the largest partnership between a state government and a private IT vendor. Is there a risk with being the first or largest, and how do you mitigate the risk?

While this may be the "first" of its size in the public sector, there have been numerous examples in the public and private sector of initiatives such as this that have worked well. We have had the benefit of numerous subject matter experts -- both technical and functional -- whose input has been invaluable. We also feel we have chosen a partner who understands this sector and the risk very well.

For an in-depth look at Lem Stewart's role in outsourcing, read the December/January issue of Government Technology's Public CIO.

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor