A lawmaker who helped craft legislation that founded the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) is getting a chance to lead the agency as it tries to salvage its sputtering IT outsourcing deal.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell tapped state Rep. Samuel A. Nixon to become Virginia's CIO on Wednesday, March 24, in a move preceded days earlier by the governor signing legislation that gave him the authority to hire and fire the CIO position.

Nixon comes to his new job with more than 25 years' experience in the IT field, according to the governor's office. He currently is serving his ninth term in the Virginia House of Delegates and is a senior consultant with CapTech Ventures, an IT management and consulting firm based in Richmond, Va.

McDonnell said in a statement that after serving with Nixon for more than a decade in the Virginia General Assembly, he had come to admire the new CIO's intellect and knowledge of IT issues. "Sam's experience in this fast-changing industry will be of tremendous benefit at VITA. I know he will do a great job for the citizens of Virginia," McDonnell said.

Nixon, who will take over April 5, becomes the third person to serve as state CIO in the past nine months, following George Coulter and Lem Stewart. That turnover could be seen as the latest proof of difficulties and challenges ahead for the state's IT services pact with Northrop Grumman, a 10-year deal worth $2.3 billion.

Virginia's since-dissolved Information Technology Investment Board fired Stewart in June 2009 after he withheld payment of an invoice to Northrop Grumman because the vendor was "not meeting [its] contractual obligations." Stewart's replacement George Coulter had served in the post since August 2009. McDonnell credited Coulter with helping to stabilize VITA.

After a legislative audit last fall slammed the agreement's performance and prompted criticism from lawmakers, VITA and Northrop Grumman have been working together on a remedy plan in an effort to improve service. The Richmond Times Dispatch reported last week that McDonnell's administration is attempting to renegotiate the contract and that it could result in added taxpayer expense. A state budget on the governor's desk also may include staff reductions for VITA, the newspaper added.

McDonnell, who took office in January, said Wednesday that Nixon will play a key role in that renegotiation.

Nixon was one of the lawmakers who helped write legislation which created VITA in 2003 and moved the state toward an architecture that relies upon private-sector partnerships to deliver IT services and management.

Nixon will report to the governor through state Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey.

 

Matt Williams  |  Associate Editor