In an expected turn of events, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation to roll the Agency for State Technology into the Department of Management Services. The new iteration will be called the Division of State Technologies.
A long-awaited reorganization of Florida’s state IT and technology departments will soon get underway following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of a bill authorizing the changes.
House Bill 5301 was passed by the state Legislature in May and signed by DeSantis this week. It will fold the state’s largest IT agency, the Agency for State Technology (AST), into the Department of Management Services (DMS) — the state’s department concerned with business and workforce activities. The AST will then be merged with the DMS’ telecommunications division, creating the DMS Division of State Technologies.
The merger is expected to increase efficiency by streamlining the state’s technology and telecommunications functions, according to a release associated with the merger. It is not expected to result in any reductions in staff to any affected agencies, instead seeing all of AST’s current functions and services transferred to DMS and merged.
“As cyberthreats continue to increase and become more complex, it is imperative that Florida’s technology infrastructure evolve intelligently to protect our data and personal information,” DeSantis said in a press release. “I want to thank the Florida Legislature for their support of our administration’s efforts to streamline agency operations and deliver a more efficient government to Floridians.”
The signing of the bill marks the culmination of longtime efforts to shake up the state's IT operations. Before this latest bill, three previous attempts were made to shut down or reorganize the AST. Political differences consistently quashed these efforts. An attempt to decentralize the agency in 2017, for instance, was met with a veto from then Gov. Rick Scott.
As this merger gets underway, Heath Beach, the current director of telecommunications for DMS, will serve as interim CIO until the a permanent pick is made. At the new agency, Beach will also serve as the chief business officer.
“This legislation paves the way for Florida to become the nation’s leader in cybersecurity and cloud solutions,” said DMS Secretary Jonathan Satter, in the release. “Thanks to the leadership from Governor DeSantis and our House and Senate partners, we will provide greater efficiencies in agency operations.”
The merger will also come with new IT initiatives, including the creation of a new cybersecurity task force — chaired by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez and composed of law enforcement, emergency management and IT professionals — which will dedicate itself to investigating and implementing effective security solutions.
The merger is expected to take place July 1.