Governors eye security initiative

Ambitious program could spur $1 billion for IT integration

Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt

Ricky Carioti


An initiative by state governors to improve information sharing related to homeland
security may kick off a wave of new information technology spending over the next several
years.


The National Governors Association announced last month it
will launch a pilot project in various states that will serve as a model for integrating
IT systems within all 50 states.


The initiative, planned to begin
next year, could produce more than $1 billion in IT spending over several years as states
construct information sharing networks and plug state and local agencies into them,
according to analysts and industry experts.


"The opportunity
is definitely there," said Cathy Pomanti, vice president of state and local
government for KPMG Consulting Inc. of McLean, Va. "It is going to happen. It's just
a matter of time."


The project is intended to allow federal,
state and local officials access to information from motor vehicle and criminal record
databases to ensure public safety and protect against terrorist attacks. The NGA pilot
project will focus on integrating information related to criminal justice, public safety
and health.


"We can't combat a networked enemy with a
mainframe response," Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, co-chairman of the NGA Homeland
Security Task Force, said when the governors' initiative was announced Sept. 19. "We
need a networked response."


Leavitt declined to provide a
cost estimate for the pilot project, which will seek to identify and define what
information needs to be shared, how it will be shared, where that information resides and
who needs access to it, NGA said.


The five to eight states
selected to participate in the pilot project will be announced in December. NGA expects to
secure funding by June 2003, and all projects will be completed in 2004.


<>
SIZE="2">The funding will come from the nonprofit Markle Foundation of New York and the
Commerce Department's Critical Infrastructure Security Office, NGA said.

<>
SIZE="2">States can achieve many of the program's goals by building on the integrated
criminal justice information sharing networks that some of them began developing in the
late 1990s using federal grants, said Thom Rubel, NGA's director of state information
technology programs. The Justice Department distributed $16.4 million in grants to 26
states last year for planning and work flow analyses that would facilitate integrated
criminal justice information systems.

"Our justice
information sharing project has obviously taken on a new sense of priority among states
and governors," Rubel said. "Justice information sharing and systems integration
are an integral part of homeland security and will fit into the overall state homeland
security strategy."


The most successful of these projects are
in Colorado and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania system cost $69 million over five years,
including about $30 million that went to prime contractor KPMG Consulting, according to
state officials. Federal grants offset only $2.8 million of this cost.


<>
SIZE="2">State employees developed Colorado's system, a five-year, $10 million project.

A forthcoming grant from the Office of Justice Programs will enable the NGA
in 2003 to offer a justice information planning grant to every state that is interested,
Rubel said. A condition of that grant will be the state's intent to coordinate justice
information sharing with its homeland security strategy, he said.


The
NGA initiative will require substantial political and financial commitment from governors
and legislatures to succeed, said Tom Davies, a senior vice president with the market
research firm Current Analysis Inc. of Sterling, Va.


"For
statewide criminal justice information systems to take off, the states are going to have
to belly up to the bar," Davies said. "Federal grants alone will not pay for the
cost of developing them."


The cost of integrated criminal
justice information systems in each state will depend on the state's population, the size
of the system and the degree to which the data is already integrated, said P.J. Doyle, a
partner with the market research firm CJIS Group of Crawfordville, Fla.


<>
SIZE="2">Both Davies and Doyle estimated that a 50-state effort would cost more than $1
billion over several years. "The federal government will not be able to afford to
build these systems for state and locals," Doyle said.

Currently,
state integrated criminal justice information systems are connected but not integrated,
Doyle said. A fully integrated system requires that law enforcement, courts and
corrections all feed data into the same system. As states establish homeland security
information sharing networks, the real challenge is not linking criminal justice agencies
and departments but hooking up first responders to the networks, he said.


<>
SIZE="2">NGA has singled out the Pennsylvania Justice Network, or JNET, as a model program
for what the governors are trying to achieve.

JNET began in 1998
as an integrated criminal justice information system designed to provide a common
environment for authorized state and local officials to access offender records and other
criminal justice information. The system links information from diverse hardware and
software platforms under a common Web-browser interface.


The state
has expanded the functionality of JNET so that it also serves as a platform for knowledge
sharing among state and local justice agencies.


In the past,
similar efforts at the state level have failed, because people tried to build a completely
new data warehouse, said Linda Rosenberg, Pennsylvania's JNET director. The approach ran
into problems because it required agencies to conform their data and modify their back-end
systems.


"It's cost effective, but you're not going to get
buy-in from agencies," Rosenberg said, referring to the idea of creating a single
data warehouse of criminal justice information.


Pennsylvania's
approach was to develop a solution that would allow each agency to maintain its autonomy,
she said. Each of the 15 state agencies participating in the project controls what
information it shares with other agencies and who is authorized to see it.


<>
SIZE="2">KPMG Consulting is discussing similar projects with eight to 10 states, said
Jeannette Gang, managing director for state and local government with KPMG Consulting.

Pennsylvania has surpassed the other states in its ability to identify and
share critical information to support homeland security, Davies said.


<>
SIZE="2">Over the next few years many states will strive to get where Pennsylvania is
"with a sense of urgency that they haven't had in the past," he said.

<>
SIZE="2">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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