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Cutting Ties: Virginia’s Bumpy Breakup with Northrop Grumman

Described by CIO Nelson Moe as “groundbreaking” in 2005, the commonwealth has severed its relationship with its former mega-contractor that limited Virginia’s agility in meeting today’s IT needs.

There was a time not long ago when many in charge of technology in state government had their eyes on efforts in states like Georgia, Texas and Virginia to outsource the bulk of information technology functions to a third-party contractor. These agreements were large and far-reaching, billed as a smart way to save money while taking advantage of private-sector innovation and bring its merits to bear on the government enterprise.

But recent years have seen these same states move away from the so-called mega-contract model, in favor of multiple smaller agreements that allow them more flexibility and agility in making smart IT decisions that better mirror the pace of technological change. 

But the transition from one management structure to another is not always a smooth one. A recent audit of the Virginia Information Technologies Agency by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee raised several concerns. But the audit took place very early on in the state's transition to a multi-source model, when Virginia was still embroiled in a lawsuit with its incumbent provider, Northrop Grumman. 

At the NASCIO annual conference last week in Nashville, Tenn., Government Technology caught up with Virginia Chief Information Officer Nelson Moe to talk about the state's path forward in the wake of the audit. 

Expressing confidence in the path Virginia is on, Moe underlined how critical it is to work with an integrator who can bridge various contractors for the state. In fact, that's what the state is doing for its Medicaid Management Information System — breaking up the contract into several smaller ones in order to execute the work more effectively. 

"I believe that in order to provide relevant services at the speed and scale for constituents, you need to have a professional integrator to do that for us," he said.


Noelle Knell has been the editor of Government Technology magazine for e.Republic since 2015. She has more than two decades of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.
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