State CIOs struggle to get federal funds for IT programs

State information technology departments are beginning to feel the heat of low funding for their IT programs.

Forty state chief information officers met with Homeland Security Department officials this week in hopes of restoring their State Homeland Security Program grant. The visits took place this week in Washington as part of the annual D.C. Fly-In meeting of the National Association of State CIOs.

The grant is worth $525 million, to be divided among the states. States consider those funds integral to the upcoming Real ID Act implementation. The program, which would standardize driver’s licenses, could cost almost $14 billion, and states would not receive any specific federal support to pay for it.

States can use up to 20 percent of their grant funds on Real ID, DHS has said. However, state CIO representatives believe when the grant funds are finally split up, there won’t be enough left to go around.

“Imagine if those [grant] funds were a pie divided amongst the states,” said NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson. “Divide the pie in half. Then you get [DHS Secretary] Michael Chertoff to tell us that we can spend up to 20 percent of our slice of the pie on Real ID. I think we’d have enough to hold two meetings.”

Robinson also said the Bush administration has cut DHS grant funds almost every year, forcing the state CIOs to lobby officials and Congress to have them restored.

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