Wethington sets goals

New NASCIO president seeks improved ties with local government

Gerry Wethington, NASCIO president and CIO of Missouri

Now that the National Association of State Chief Information Officers has gained a seat at the table with federal CIOs in shaping policies that affect both federal and state governments, the organization intends to forge the same collaborative relationship with local government.

"We need to look for areas where we are not engaged where we can have a big impact," said Gerry Wethington, NASCIO president and CIO of Missouri. "Rather than waiting for things to fill our agenda, let's set our own agenda."

During the past year, state CIOs have worked with federal officials on a number of key issues, including enterprise architecture, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, identity security and authorization and commingling of federal funds for state projects.

Wethington said NASCIO should develop similar collaborative relationships with local governments, which expect and want state CIOs to keep them informed on key issues. Local governments and the states can work together in many areas, especially those related to homeland security, where state and local officials are seeking to improve information sharing among criminal justice systems and promote interoperable voice and data communications for first responders.

Wethington began serving as the president of the Lexington, Ky.-based group at the association's annual meeting last month in St. Louis. Before becoming Missouri's CIO in October 2000, Wethington was director of information systems for the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

He also is the chairman of the board for Search, a national consortium for justice information and statistics based in Sacramento, Calif., and vice chairman of the Global Justice Information Network Federal Advisory Commission.

By drawing on his law enforcement experience, Wethington will be able to help state governments work with federal and local governments to improve security and information sharing, especially among intelligence and justice agencies, said Steve Kolodney, chairman of NASCIO Corporate Leadership Council and a vice president with the state and local solutions group of American Management Systems Inc., Fairfax, Va.

Wethington was one of the driving forces in NASCIO behind the creation of an enterprise architecture tool kit that was funded by grants from the Justice Department, said Mike Benzen, vice president for government services at Tier Technologies Inc. Benzen preceded Wethington as CIO of Missouri and is a past president of NASCIO.

The NASCIO Enterprise Architecture Development Tool Kit is designed to facilitate information sharing essential to homeland security.

The tool kit has gained broad acceptance throughout government and industry, and some states are now making it part of their request for proposal requirements, Wethington said. He would like to see more states and integrators use the tool kit in their solutions.

The next two budget years are expected to be rough going for the states. Forty-five states are reporting budget shortfalls, according to the Washington-based National Association of State Budget Officers. During the coming year, NASCIO will try to help 23 new governors understand the value of technology and raise the credibility of state CIOs as key members of their administrations.

The gubernatorial transition provides "an opportunity to have IT recognized as a core business function that is a quiet enabler in helping to implement policy," Wethington said.

Analysts and industry experts said state CIOs will need to show governors and agency heads how IT investments can promote homeland security and public safety, save taxpayer dollars, improve citizen satisfaction and improve government operations.

"NASCIO needs to make the case for what investments need to be made nationally to help implement national priorities, such as homeland security," said Tom Davies, senior vice president at the market research and consulting firm Current Analysis Inc., Sterling, Va.

Kolodney said NASCIO needs to ensure that the CIO role and relationship in new administrations is not diminished as governors tackle pressing problems, such as budget shortfalls, medical cost increases and education.

NASCIO also wants to enhance the credibility of state CIOs in the eyes of agency and department directors, Wethington said.

"One of our big challenges is to raise the confidence of cabinet directors that someone else can offer insight into their business processes and help them gain efficiencies that are real important in tight budget times," he said.

Staff writer William Welsh can be reached at wwelsh@postnewsweektech.com.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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