Officials nurture relationship

Federal CIO Council's Strategic Plan, Fiscal Year 2001-2002

Even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, federal officials had pledged greater coordination and information sharing with their state and local counterparts, and the relationship has been growing stronger with time, state officials say.

Case in point: The role of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers' (NASCIO) representative on the federal CIO Council has steadily evolved during the past year as both sides learned from each other's perspectives and moved toward common ground.

"I think it's definitely made an impact on the federal government in the fact that even when we're not in the room or at the table, there's a consideration as to the impact on the states," said NASCIO President Rock Regan, Connecticut's CIO.

The CIO Council — composed of CIOs from 30 federal departments and agencies — was formed six years ago by executive order to coordinate and improve interagency practices, procedures and resources in information technology. Last summer, it made room at its table for a state government liaison.

Ohio CIO Greg Jackson is NASCIO's current representative, following former New Jersey CIO Wendy Rayner, who retired last December, and Keith Comstock, who resigned his post as West Virginia's chief technology officer in May. Although Jackson has yet to attend a council meeting, he said he expected to have a two-way dialogue.

"I think the best role that I can fulfill is understanding what the issues are, what they're trying to address, what they feel their priorities are and how states can play a role in that," he said. "And if we have priorities that are not their priorities, then to try to bring those to the table and try to influence the priority setting. But again I have to respect the fact that I'm a guest at the table and it is not necessarily my agenda."

Jackson said both sides are working on the same issues, such as ensuring interoperability in wireless communications, taking a uniform approach to the use of the .gov domain name and tackling the Office of Management and Budget's 24 e-government initiatives.

Mark Forman, OMB's associate director of IT and e-government, has asked states to help pilot some of the initiatives, including e-Grants, e-Vital, Geospatial Information One Stop and USA Service, which will enable citizens to submit personal data once for use by many federal services.

"It's an opportunity for us to share or leverage channels to constituents, and I think that's where we're going to have the biggest opportunity to leverage each other," Jackson said.

Although Jackson expects the federal/ state partnership to "thrive," it could easily go the other way.

"I think the thing that is a little hairy for all of us is that a lot of that has been based on personalities and people being open and having probably a lot of interjection of state people in the federal government," he said. "Some of these structures are not formal. And we could very easily have people who don't have the right personalities or the right agenda coming in, and it could very easily go back."

Creating a federal CIO post is one proposed solution — which NASCIO has supported in the past — but Regan said Forman is playing that role without the formal title.

There is certainly the potential for the state/ federal relationship to "go back to the way it was," Regan said. "But I think ...what's been demonstrated is that's not the direction we're going in. So I think what'll happen is this will continue to evolve, and as long as it's moving forward, we're pleased as punch. I think the minute we see that not happening you'll definitely hear our voice."

As an example of a better working relationship, Regan said he has named several state CIOs to work with the federal Office of Homeland Security on a national blueprint for fighting terrorism. The appointees include Regan, Matt DeZee of South Carolina, Charles Gerhards of Pennsylvania, Richard Varn of Iowa, Otto Doll of South Dakota and Bob Feingold of Colorado.

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New CIO Council liaison

Greg Jackson was named assistant director of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services and chief information officer for the state in January 2000. As CIO, Jackson oversees all state activities related to information technology. Ohio's fiscal 2001 IT budget was $546 million.

Jackson's previous positions include:

* Senior consultant with IBM Corp.'s global government consulting group. He helped conduct the independent verification and validation of an integrated tax administration system for the District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue.

* Deputy director of management information systems for the Ohio Department of Taxation.

* Employment in the private sector with Kaiser Permanente California and Hoover Co.

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