Gov. Bill Walker signed an administrative order April 25 consolidating Alaska's IT and telecommunications assets to a standalone agency under the leadership of a state CIO.
Until now, the functions had been under the purview of the state’s Department of Administration, which delegated technology responsibilities to executive branch agencies. That federated structure is blamed for what is described in a press release as “inconsistencies or redundancies,” which “hampered” efficient delivery of information technology services throughout the state.
"This administrative order will strengthen our IT functions, reduce overall costs, maximize efficiency, and allow us to tap into the talents of our entire team as we adapt to a changing world,” Walker said in the release. “This concept has been years in the making, and I’m proud we can move forward with smart moves to streamline the delivery of services.”
Administrative Order 284 outlines 12 key duties of the office, including the appointment of a chief information security officer, regular reporting to the Department of Administration, and regular statewide review of systems and programs.
After creating the agency via the administrative order, Walker tapped Bill Vajda, a technologist with ties to the Bush and Obama administrations and a wide breadth of experience in government and industry, as the state's first CIO to lead such an effort. "Bill Vajda has served as the CIO for the U.S. Department of Education and the acting CIO for the National Security Agency, as well as serving in several policy functions in the White House. Bill’s depth of knowledge and experience will be valuable as we begin this process,” Department of Administration Commissioner Sheldon Fisher said in the release.
The process is the result of legislative action dating back to 2014, which tasked the Department of Administration to produce a strategic path forward for Alaska’s IT infrastructure.
Vajda's predecessor, Jim Bates, served in the role from May 2013 to February 2016, with Information Technology Officer Jim Steele acting as an interim director after Bates' resignation.
In an exit interview with Government Technology last year, Bates said he had worked on new legislation that will make the office stronger for more comprehensive IT governance statewide as well as an IT inventory analysis that will allow the state to streamline procurement.