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New Jersey to Centralize Executive Branch IT, Boost Efficiency

Gov. Chris Christie has signed Executive Order No. 225, which directs New Jersey's chief technology officer to oversee the centralization of IT for more than 70 executive branch agencies.

Following a banner year during which New Jersey invested $10 million to bolster cyberdefenses and reduce the risk to information technology, the state will begin centralizing executive branch IT, Gov. Chris Christie announced Thursday, June 1, upon signing a new Executive Order (EO) empowering state Chief Technology Officer Dave Weinstein to lead the effort.

EO No. 225 directs Weinstein, who was appointed in June of 2016, to begin work on decentralizing unique software among the executive branch’s more than 70 departments and agencies — pushing out to the state offices that use them applications not shared across the enterprise or by more than one agency.

Simultaneously, officials will inventory computer, storage, network and data center assets “to identify opportunities for centralizing common IT functions and operations,” the order states. The hardware inventory and a roster of all staff tasked with IT infrastructure functions and operations duties are due to Weinstein within 30 days.

New Jersey is also targeting legacy systems in its executive branch. The EO gave heads of these agencies 60 days to submit a list of legacy applications that need modernizing, and 180 days to create proposals for how to update or decommission them.

Chief Technology Officer David Weinstein
Weinstein, in turn, has 180 days to provide Christie with his plan for consolidating IT infrastructure assets and functions — a process he told Government Technology dates back to at least May 2015 when Christie signed another EO establishing the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell.

It gave officials “really good insight” into threats facing state IT, said Weinstein (pictured at left), but also a “pretty rigorous” idea of IT infrastructure.

Their conclusion: Centralization of infrastructure, Weinstein told Government Technology, was “imperative to maintain a certain level of security, optimize efficiency and enhance reliability” in the executive branch.

“On a more abstract level, I think the EO gets us closer to establishing a unified identity around IT and cybersecurity within the executive branch and state government,” he added. “Gov. Christie’s words and actions get us leaps and bounds closer to a world in which we are operating like a true enterprise IT organization.”

Christie, whose term ends on Jan. 16, 2018, said a key goal is to leave New Jersey’s digital domain “better than we found it.”

He called the centralization of authority and personnel under the Office of Information Technology (OIT) “a sea change in the way government is managed,” when he announced the executive order at the OIT in Trenton. The state’s 8.9 million customers, its residents, increasingly demand tech-centered services, the governor said.

“We have to acknowledge that in this respect, as a customer service business,” Christie said, characterizing the changes on the way as “a common-sense approach to taking us to a new level in terms of our information technology” and one that puts the power in the hands of the people.

Agency officials in other states have said they intend to continue migrating away from data centers to the cloud. Weinstein said New Jersey, too, will leverage the public cloud for IT infrastructure services — but shift data responsibilities to enterprise-level in an effort to save agencies money.

“We’re going to take a hybrid approach. We want to leverage a central agency, my organization, the Office of Information Technology, for data center purposes,” the CTO said. “Every decision we’ve made over the past year assumes that the future will involve a hybrid strategy as it relates to hosting services, so we feel confident we’re well postured to operate in that world moving forward."

It’s unclear how many legacy systems currently exist in the executive branch, and how many can be modernized versus decommissioned.

The cost of implementing the EO is also uncertain, but Weinstein said the state expects to achieve operational and fiscal efficiencies “in the near and long term as a result of this strategy.”

Theo Douglas is assistant managing editor for Industry Insider — California, and before that was a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.