But state officials want action behind the rhetoric regarding homeland security, e-gov and other issues
The keynote speeches of two senior White House officials signaled a "rhetorical
alignment" between the federal and state governments on homeland security,
e-government and other issues, several state chief information officers
acknowledged. But they said that officials must now move beyond that.
Governments need to produce "actionable plans" on these issues, said
Gerry Wethington, Missouri's CIO and new president of the National Association
of State Chief Information Officers, during a roundtable discussion at NASCIO's
annual conference in St. Louis this week.
NASCIO hosted Steve Cooper, senior director of information integration
and chief information officer for the White House Office of Homeland Security,
and Mark Forman, the Office of Management and Budget's associate director
for information technology and e-government.
Both federal officials asked their hosts for greater input, participation
and collaboration on homeland security and e-government projects with the
federal government. Some e-government projects sponsored by the federal
government are already under way, while Cooper proposed funding several
joint pilot projects for homeland security.
State officials greeted the speeches warmly, but they remained skeptical
about feedback, concrete plans and funding from the federal government.
Richard Varn, Iowa's CIO, said the federal and state governments are
in "rhetorical alignment," but questioned how that rhetoric is being addressed
formally within the administration, federal agencies and Congress.
Although the presence of Cooper and Forman was welcomed, they don't
represent all federal agencies, several state CIOs said. The two men are
stepping forward to provide leadership, said Pennsylvania CIO Charles Gerhards,
"but we haven't seen the hearts and minds of the rank and file at the federal
level being that inclusive."
He also said states shouldn't have to wait for federal direction, but
can enact reasonable measures or actions even if they're not perfect. "Let's
get our shovels out, get a spade of dirt out of the ground, and get moving,"
Indiana CIO Laura Larimer said states, which have viewed the White House
and Congress as intrusive by handing down unfunded mandates, must also change
their attitudes when dealing with their federal counterparts. Since Sept.
11, 2001, NASCIO officials have made several lobbying trips to Washington,
D.C., reaching out to Bush administration and legislative officials.
"It's not a one-shot deal. I think it's going to take a long time,"
said Kentucky CIO Aldona Valicenti, referring to the federal/state relationship.
But officials also said that state governments must speak with one voice
when pushing their agendas.
That'll be important for homeland security, but also as states grapple
with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a
federal law signed in 1996 to protect the privacy of people's health information
and improve the efficiency of health care delivery by standardizing electronic
Valicenti said there's a lack of understanding among federal officials
of what it will take to implement HIPAA. Louis Kompare, deputy CIO for Tennessee,
said the federal government is leaving it up to the 50 states to come up
with 50 different answers, and that's not the best use of federal funding,
adding that the federal government should provide better direction on this
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