The New Evangelists: Steve Cooper and Mark Forman

The two reach out to work with states as equal partners -- not dictators

Mark Forman, the White House's e-gov czar

Steve Cooper, CIO for the Office of Homeland Security

Henrik G. deGyor

Something was different at this year's annual meeting of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. Not just one, but two heavy hitters from the Bush
administration gave keynote speeches.

Before Sept. 11, 2001,
federal officials didn't often attend meetings held by state groups such as NASCIO, which
met last month in St. Louis. On occasion, the government might send an agency official to
discuss a specific federally funded program, but state CIOs didn't hear much from
officials who set technology policy and hold sway over other federal agencies.
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Attired in a dark suit, Office of Management and Budget e-gov czar Mark Forman
stood tall and straight behind the podium as he delivered his presentation. In contrast,
Office of Homeland Security CIO Steve Cooper doffed his suit jacket, snatched the
microphone and strode into the audience to make his presentation.

[IMGCAP(2)]Their
personal styles might be different, but the message they carried was the same: The federal
government wants to work with state government as equal partners.
"This
is new for us," Forman said about the partnership idea. "We've been dictators
[in the past], and this hasn't worked."


"You're seeing
Cooper and Forman at NASCIO because they are trying to be better stewards of serving the
public, regardless of whether it's federal government or state government," said Greg
Baroni, president of Global Public Sector for Unisys Corp., Blue Bell, Pa.
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Together they represent "a different breed" of public servant entering
the federal government who possess a more holistic view of government than their
predecessors, Baroni said. Their efforts are leading to the adoption of better practices,
such as enterprise architecture, information technology standards and innovative pilot
projects for e-gov and homeland security, he said.

Like any new
relationship, this one needs lots of nurturing, according to analysts and industry
officials. The relationship has yet to produce any stunning results, they said. What's
more, it will take time for both levels of government to get comfortable with the notion
of equality.


As for e-government, where the collaboration has been
going on longer, the results thus far are mixed, with some Quicksilver initiatives further
along than others, Forman said. And as for homeland security, Cooper said that the
architecture and standards for homeland security, which must be in place before projects
are implemented, won't be ready until September 2003.


Some state
government and industry officials believe this kind of outreach marks the dawn of a new
era in federal-state government IT relations. In the past, Congress routinely turned a
deaf ear to the states, they said, as shown most recently by the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act of 1998. In the case of HIPAA, Congress mandated that
states overhaul their systems to comply with new electronic data interchange, privacy and
security standards without providing sufficient funds.


That some
federal and state officials have not forgotten previous skirmishes over IT is not a bad
sign, said John Kost, vice president of worldwide public-sector research for Gartner Inc.,
Stamford, Conn. "The acknowledgement that there is a problem by all sides is a first
step," he said.


Others are not so optimistic. The skeptics,
and there are many, point to a lack of clearly defined goals and objectives on the part of
the federal government, an entrenched federal bureaucracy that resists change and an
absence of support from Congress for the partnership. Even supporters concede it may take
months, if not years, to accomplish.
"The collaboration is
coming, but it's not there yet," said Ed Burns, president and national practice
leader of state government solutions for Ciber Inc., Denver.


Aldona
Valicenti, CIO of Kentucky, agreed, saying, "It's not a one-shot deal. It's going to
take a long time to accomplish this."
But analysts agreed
that the movement toward greater cooperation could have important consequences for systems
integrators. Companies that have a strong presence in the nation's capital and in the
state capitals will have a decided advantage, said Tom Davies, senior vice president with
the market research firm of Current Analysis Inc., Sterling, Va.


And
those that tightly coordinate their federal, state and local business "have even that
much more of an advantage," he said.


Kost said integrators
that are knowledgeable about federal and state systems, and have experience in the
specific domains where the partnerships will occur, will be better off than others.



"If these systems become, in effect 'nationalized,' it will serve the
large companies that can handle this sort of scale. It may also put them in a position of
power broker for some of the local work that may need to be done in individual
states," he said.


In the first wave of state and local
funding for homeland security, the Bush administration agreed to provide $3.5 billion for
first responders and $1.1 billion for bioterrorism preparedness in fiscal 2003.
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But the funding has caused headaches for the nation's governors, who say the
money is flowing more slowly than expected. Now states are calling
on the federal government to provide more funds in fiscal 2004 for a second wave of
homeland security projects focused on information sharing. But federal and state officials
agree that before these projects can move forward, information architecture and IT
standards must be adopted.


Cooper told state CIOs that the federal
government is further along than the states with establishing the business
architecture--that is, the policy and strategy guidelines--for homeland security.
Conversely, the states are further along with IT architecture standards than the federal
government, he said.


With states expected to continue to face
budget shortfalls for two more fiscal years, analysts and industry officials see continued
federal funding as a necessity, not a luxury.


"I believe
there is pressure and a need to act quickly in homeland security. If we want to do this
fast, it has to be with federal funding," said Kay Goss, senior emergency management
consultant with Electronic Data Systems Corp., Plano, Texas.
"Most
states are looking to the federal government for a national security plan and to establish
national priorities," she said.


John Goggin, vice president
and director of government strategy for the market research firm Meta Group Inc.,
Stamford, Conn., said the relationship between federal and state government hasn't changed
dramatically yet. What will make it change is an increasing amount of homeland
security-related funds flowing to the states, and the federally mandated requirements that
accompany the funding, he said.


Federal and state officials will
put into place the so-called enterprise architecture and IT standards for homeland
security over the next year, and integrators should actively participate in the process,
said government officials.


Greg Jackson, NASCIO's representative
to the Federal CIO Council and CIO of Ohio, said the architecture and standards that
federal and state governments establish will be a determining factor as to whether
projects get funded. Consequently, if companies have new technologies in research and
development, they need to make standards-setting groups aware of them so that they are not
excluded from future use.


"Both the federal and state
government want to make sure that there is a pipeline to private industry, so that they
can help us craft what these standards are going to be," Jackson said.
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One of the key shortcomings of HIPAA was that the federal government did not
issue architecture and standards, state officials said. Rather than a common architecture
and standards for HIPAA, the states were left with no choice but to develop and implement
50 different approaches.

Thus, the adoption of common architecture
and standards for homeland security could produce a sea change in the way the federal
government funds state IT programs, Goggin said.


If the states are
able to demonstrate that they have the enterprise architecture and IT standards in place
to ensure compliance and accountability, then the federal government likely would provide
more flexibility for IT spending, he said.


The establishment of a
common architecture and standards "will foster better relationships
dramatically," Goggin said. During the past year Forman has invited state officials
to become involved in the Quicksilver e-gov initiatives through their participation in the
Federal CIO Council and other mechanisms. State officials worked closely with federal
agencies on about half of the 24 original initiatives.


"The
states have carried the load we've asked them to carry," Forman said.
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SIZE="2">Forman said he is satisfied with some of these initiatives, singling out e-vital,
e-grants and business compliance one-stop as areas where federal and state government have
made substantial progress together.

But he also mentioned
geospatial one stop, disaster management and the wireless public safety initiative known
as Project Safecom as areas where the federal government has fallen short of its
objectives. To remedy the situation, Forman has appointed new program managers for
disaster management and Project Safecom.


The Marine Corps' Mark
Zimmerman has been tapped to run the disaster management project, while the Agriculture
Department's Susan Moore will supervise Project Safecom.


Cooper
told the state CIOs he wants to see homeland security projects at the state level take on
a regional flavor. These projects would advance integration in the areas related to
criminal justice, first response, public safety, public health and private sector
corporate security, he said. Cooper already has participated in the creation of regional
projects in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions, state officials said.
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To help jump-start such programs, Cooper is proposing that the federal government
fund pilot projects aimed at fostering cross-organizational integration among agencies at
different levels of government. The purpose of the projects, which would take less than a
year to complete and cost $1 million or less, would be to provide seed money for larger
projects that the states or regions could expand with their own funds. <>
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Thom Rubel, director of state IT programs for the National Governors Association
of Washington, said Cooper envisions that the states will come together in groups to
identify which types of information need to be shared and develop best practices for
sharing such information.

"If four or five regions start
sharing information, then that will expand into a full-blown homeland security information
sharing environment," Rubel said. *


Government Computer News
Staff Writer Jason Miller contributed to this story. Staff Writer William Welsh can be
reached at wwelsh@postnewsweektech.com.

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