A bill passed by the Legislature and expected to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis will see the state’s predominant IT agency — the Agency for State Technology — folded into the Department of Management Services.
Florida, which has long flirted with a state technology shakeup, will soon embark on a massive reorganization of IT governance. The process will see previously distinct agencies merged into one and the launch of new tech initiatives — including a cybersecurity task force.
A bill recently passed by the Legislature and expected to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis will see the state’s predominant IT agency — the Agency for State Technology (AST) — folded into the Department of Management Services (DMS), the state’s department devoted to business and workforce related activities. The AST will then be merged with the DMS’ telecommunications division, creating the DMS Division of State Technologies.
In the past, Florida more than once came close to a similar reorganization process, but some political differences consistently quashed attempts.
The new merger, which is set to occur on July 1, will not result in any reductions to staff for any of the affected agencies, said Heath Beach, the director of telecommunications for DMS, who is also overseeing the merger process. The operation is a "lift and shift," as Beach put it, one that will see "all of ... [AST's] functions, all of its services" coming over to the DMS and merged.
“We feel confident that we are set to reshape the future of technology in Florida,” said Beach, in an interview with Government Technology. “We’re ready to get out there and start leading the nation and stand shoulder to shoulder with other states in their IT operations.”
Management of the new division — a “one technology entity” — in Beach's words, will eventually fall to the state's CIO. Beach, who will be serving as the chief business officer for the new agency, will at the same time assume the duties of interim CIO while the agency searches for a permanent one. He starts in the business leadership position on May 13.
Another organization assisting the transition is the Florida Technology Council — the state's key association devoted to advancing the tech sector — which is helping in an advisory role.
James Taylor, CEO of the FTC, said that the merger represents a fresh opportunity to reinvent the state's approach to IT governance.
“We’ve been handed an opportunity to think about how we want to reshape state government and take a fresh look at all the challenges the state’s been facing,” said Taylor in an interview. Support from the governor’s office and the Legislature has been immense, he added.
Also nested within plans for the shakeup are the creation of various new initiatives. These include a cybersecurity task force chaired by the lieutenant governor that will investigate effective defense methods, as well as a cloud first policy that will require each state agency to show a preference for third-party data systems over state data.
“The issues affecting everyone around cybersecurity grow every day,” Beach said. “This task force is going to look at where we are currently with the state, and then provide options for where we need to go in order to ensure that we’ve done everything possible to address any sort of cybersecurity risk or threat."
Looking ahead, Beach said the new division would emphasize collaborations to enhance operations and procurements.
"We anticipate as we move forward with the governor and legislature's agenda that we will be working with both other states as well as the Florida Technology Council in order to ensure that Florida is on the leading edge," he said.