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As a New Governor Arrives, New Jersey's CTO Will Leave

Appointed by Gov. Chris Christie in June 2016, outgoing New Jersey Chief Technology Officer Dave Weinstein said he's proudest of the state's progress toward IT centralization.

New Jersey Chief Technology Officer Dave Weinstein, who became the state’s first-ever CTO in June 2016 by Gov. Chris Christie, confirmed that Jan. 15 will be his last day in the position, as a new administration prepares to take office.

Incoming Gov. Phil Murphy is due to take his oath of office on Jan. 16 at a ceremony in Trenton, N.J., and Weinstein and many other administration officials will likely be departing.

In an email, Christie’s Press Secretary Brian Murray said the outgoing governor’s term ends at 11:59 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Jan. 16 and “unless specifically retained by the incoming governor, all department heads and senior staff will leave effective that date and time.”

The hiring process for the state’s second CTO is unclear, but Weinstein said in an interview that the Office of Information Technology’s (OIT) No. 2 official, Chief Operating Officer Odysseus Marcopolus, will stay on until he is replaced by the incoming administration.

As for Weinstein, he said he will take at least two weeks off, but declined to reveal his next move yet. Asked whether he will remain in public service, Weinstein — who is coming off about eight years in the public sector — indicated that he will be taking a break from government.

Weinstein, who was 28 when appointed CTO, came to OIT from the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, where he had been its chief information security officer and chief cybersecurity director. Previously, he had worked in the Defense Department’s U.S. Cyber Command center.

The CTO said he is proudest of the progress the state made as a result of implementing Executive Order No. 225, which began the process of centralizing state IT.

The order directed Weinstein to decentralize unique executive branch software and work with more than 70 state agencies to inventory computer, storage, network and data center assets “to identify opportunities for centralizing common IT functions and operations.”

IT officials conducted an inventory of hardware and created a roster of all staff tasked with IT infrastructure functions and operations within 30 days. Agency heads submitted lists of legacy applications that needed modernizing within 60 days and created proposals for updating or decommissioning them within 180 days.

And Weinstein himself submitted plans to Christie within 180 days documenting his strategy for consolidating IT infrastructure assets and functions.

“There was definitely a strong need to adapt to some major technological trends that are happening in the marketplace. I think both internally and across the executive branch, we made great strides in that respect,” Weinstein said, adding that he’s also proud this was “not something that occurred just within my office but that demanded the contribution of all executive branch agencies.”

Doing so, the CTO said, “disrupted the culture a little bit, in a positive way, of course, and really positioned the state as an enterprise for the future.”

His time at the U.S. Cyber Command prepared him well, Weinstein said, for working with a degree of daily ambiguity, and during his time as CTO he worked to flatten the organization, reward communication and break down the barriers inhibiting it.

“Just gathering data and information about the current state was critical to overcoming some of these hurdles. Government’s default setting is often one of stasis and there are a number of natural bureaucratic barriers to change. What we did, particularly over the last year, was aggressively and vigorously challenge the status quo and reject the justification that we should do something because it’s always been done,” Weinstein said.

“In that respect, I think we turned a major corner not only in our operations but in the culture of day-to-day IT in New Jersey,” he added.

Doing so has “absolutely” improved cybersecurity by standardizing platforms the state uses and performing “robust and comprehensive” asset management, Weinstein said, noting that it should continue to yield operational efficiencies.

“These cost savings will not be realized overnight, but by decommissioning unnecessary data centers, standardizing infrastructure platforms and automating functions that are performed by a rapidly attriting workforce, I’m confident that the state will realize significant economies of scale over the next several years,” he said.

Dozens of data centers exist across the executive branch, along with hundreds of applications, some portable and others not. Many could be decommissioned or modernized, respectively, depending upon the Murphy administration’s goals, Weinstein said.

From roughly June 2016 to June 2017, New Jersey invested $10 million to improve its cyberdefenses and reduce any risk to IT. Weinstein described the OIT he will leave as currently in “lockstep with the state’s risk management approach as it relates to cybersecurity,” and expressed confidence in the incoming administration’s perspective on IT modernization and cybersecurity.

He spoke positively of the degree to which the Murphy administration has prioritized IT and innovation as policy issues and noted that its committee on technology and innovation “was one of the most active and productive.”

“Although they have not yet appointed a successor, I’m encouraged by the dialog that has taken place and the degree to which there’s a general understanding that this is an issue that transcends politics,” Weinstein said.

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.