February 20, 2009 By Steve Towns, Editor
With billions of dollars directed toward health IT, rural broadband and education technology, the economic stimulus package will have significant impact on technology in state and local government, according to Gopal Khanna, CIO of Minnesota and president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). Just as important, President Barack Obama's plan for tracking stimulus spending could help transform relationships between federal, state and local government, Khanna said.
Obama signed the massive $787 billion economic stimulus package Feb. 17. The measure includes $19 billion to accelerate adoption of health IT, $7 billion for broadband Internet connectivity and $15 billion to train students for an "innovation" economy.
Video: Obama administration reaches out to state CIOs.
"The fact that the president has substantial funding for some key programs that would be enabled by use of IT is very encouraging," Khanna said. "The second piece I feel very excited about is the way the president has constructed recovery.gov as a portal and a mechanism for creating a new paradigm for accountability and transparency in government. That, I believe, will have a huge transformative impact in the long run."
Khanna said recovery.gov -- a new Web portal that gives taxpayers multiple options for tracking stimulus dollars -- signals a break from the federal government's traditional top-down approach to dealing with states and localities. He said the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is working closely with state governments on data-reporting standards for feeding information into the portal.
"My colleagues all across the country are encouraged. OMB consulted us as they were thinking about the standards for the recovery.gov because they would like to see a similar approach taken at the state and local level -- as opposed to having multiple reporting structures," said Khanna.
The administration's outreach signals an understanding of the interdependencies among federal, state and local IT systems, he said. In addition, recovery.gov's reporting requirements mean state CIOs will be closely involved in stimulus activities, Khanna said. "State CIOs will play a key role with the governor's point person on stimulus package management."
Obama administration officials also have met with NASCIO members on strengthening cyber-security and loosening restrictions on federal funding for state and local IT programs.
Securing federal support for state IT security initiatives has been a key NASCIO goal for several years. Khanna said he's encouraged by the Obama administration's willingness to engage state and local officials on cyber-security issues. Obama's choice of Melissa Hathaway -- a former Booz Allen Hamilton consultant -- to conduct a cyber-security review is another positive step, as long as Hathaway views cyber-security as an issue that spans federal, state and local IT systems, Khanna added.
Funding discussions center around relaxing requirements contained in OMB Circular A-87, which NASCIO contends encourage deployment of fragmented and disconnected IT systems. Khanna said reforming these funding policies takes on new importance as billions of federal stimulus dollars make their way into state and local government programs.
"Those were good rules 20 years ago because they made sense in a highly distributed computing environment. But today, they perpetuate silos," he said. "As new funding comes in and IT spending is being planned at the state and local level, my hope is that the federal government would be aware of the reality and not perpetuate the silos. It defeats the whole purpose of enterprise architecture."
Video: NASCIO urges better support for critical IT systems
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