IT on fast track at State

The State Department is ready to move forward on its critical information technology projects once fiscal 2002 funds are approved, State Department chief information officer Fernando Burbano said.

His comments come despite conventional wisdom that the presidential transition has slowed federal technology spending. But unlike some agencies that have found projects delayed as they await appointments, Secretary of State Colin Powell has put technology near the top of his agenda.

"We're on a fast track actually," Burbano said during a speech June 27 at the e-Gov Summit sponsored by the nonprofit Private Sector Council. Previously, the IT improvements were going to be rolled out during a period of five years, but department officials are now hoping to implement key IT initiatives in 24 months, Burbano said.

The IT initiatives largely depend on budget appropriations. The Bush administration's fiscal 2002 budget request includes $210 million for improving the department's IT infrastructure — $113.2 million more than fiscal 2001 spending levels.

Agency appropriations often have been approved well after the Oct. 1 start of the government's fiscal year, and Burbano said that State's IT initiatives are contingent on those funds.

Powell has made upgrading the department's technology a key priority, and he met with Burbano in early February, soon after Powell became secretary.

Because Powell knows about technology and its importance to the organization, IT initiatives at State are not a hard sell, Burbano said. "We have the best secretary," he said.

State has three key IT initiatives:

* Using the Internet for sensitive but unclassified communications.

* Developing the department's classified system.

* Integrating the department's foreign affairs.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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