State CIOs advise on homeland security plan

Office of Homeland Security

As Tom Ridge's Office of Homeland Security hammers away at a comprehensive national plan to defend the country's critical infrastructures, it has reached out to state government technology officials for help.

On May 23, Steve Cooper, senior director of information integration and the Homeland Security Office's chief information officer, asked representatives from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) to form a working group to advise him on the resources states have to offer.

The move is significant, said state officials, because it shows that federal officials understand that states will bear the burden of implementing any recommendations from a national plan.

Eight state CIOs from NASCIO toured Capitol Hill May 22-23, holding more than 30 meetings with members of Congress, their staffs and executive branch officials on issues important to states, including homeland security, e-government, identity security, cybersecurity, commingling of federal information technology funds, enterprise architecture and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

Rock Regan, NASCIO president and Connecticut's CIO, characterized the trip as an "educational outreach," to establish that the association is a resource to which federal lawmakers and other officials could turn.

NASCIO representatives discussed information sharing with Cooper and several other executive branch officials, including John Tritak, director of the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office; Mark Forman, the Office of Management and Budget's associate director of IT and e-government; and David McClure, director of IT management issues at the General Accounting Office. The state representatives also met with officials from the FBI, CIA, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department.

Regan promised Cooper he'd have a three- or four-member working group of state CIOs formed before June. "Their timeline is very tight, so it's something that we have to have some commitment to," said Regan, adding that it made sense for the federal government to seek input on homeland security matters.

"We're the ones providing the infrastructure to make sure the [data] flows, so I think that as the Homeland [Security Office] starts to [create] the document, the national strategy and some guidelines around it, we want to be involved as early as possible to make sure that what they're putting in place is actually doable from our perspective," he added.

A draft of the national strategy will likely be delivered to President Bush by early July. A senior administration official said in May that the plan — outlining how the Office of Homeland Security expects to use IT to help secure the nation from terrorist attacks — may not address all the concerns of federal agencies and state and local governments.

Kentucky CIO Aldona Valicenti said the tone of the NASCIO trip — the second such "fly-in" in six months and one that the organization intends to make an annual event — has changed as federal officials proactively reach out to the states. When HIPAA was passed in 1996, state governments weren't given an opportunity for input, she said. "We can actually address many of the operational issues," Valicenti said.

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