State CIOs see accord with feds

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,"

Gerhards said.

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

data interchange.

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

issue.

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