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Karen Robinson Confirmed as Permanent Texas CIO

As interim CIO, Robinson led effort to evaluate and restructure state's data center initiative.

The governance board for the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) announced Thursday, May 20, that it has named Karen W. Robinson as executive director and state CIO.

Last fall, Gov. Rick Perry appointed Robinson to the posts on an interim basis. Since then, Robinson has led efforts to restructure the state's seven-year, $863 million data center consolidation and outsourcing deal with IBM.

"There are many challenges ahead for the Department of Information Resources, but I am confident that working together we can help our customers and partners reach new levels of performance and technology," Robinson said in a prepared statement.

The massive Texas data center project, launched in 2007, has faced difficulties, and was briefly halted in 2008 by Gov. Rick Perry over worries about whether data was properly backed up.

Based on recommendations in a November 2009 report commissioned by the DIR, the state enacted IT governance changes earlier this year aimed at giving individual state agencies stronger representation in -- and more accountability for -- the Texas data center initiative. A new approach, dubbed the "owner-operator model" by the DIR, seeks to push decision-making authority to the lowest level possible for a given issue.

Robinson also reorganized the DIR's executive staffing and implemented an outreach initiative to the Texas Legislature and state agencies. Along with data center services, the DIR also is responsible for the Texas Cooperative Contracts Program, the TexasOnline portal, and statewide communications technology and information security.

Prior to joining DIR, Robinson served as director of administration and as Perry's technology adviser. She also was a technical adviser to former Texas Gov. George W. Bush, as well as the Lieutenant Governor's Office and the Texas Senate.

"Karen has the skill set, background and legislative experience to do the job," said DIR Board Chairman Charles Bacarisse, after the May 20 vote. "She picked up the ball and carried it during the interim and is uniquely qualified to lead this agency."