Florida State Technology Office shuts down

The Florida State Technology Office will cease to exist today because state lawmakers are no longer funding it as a separate entity, state officials said.

The statehouse sought to abolish the State Technology Office and its functions entirely with SB 1494, but Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed the bill on June 27. But the legislature, which controls the purse strings, will have its way regardless.

The IT services functions that reside within the technology office will move to the Florida Department of Management Services and be incorporated into the new Division of Enterprise Information Technology Services.

Lawmakers will continue to fund 156 positions that are being transferred to the new division, but will no longer fund any strategic planning functions associated with the former technology office, including the state chief information officer position.

The new division will be headed by Julie Madden, former chief technology officer for the State Technology Office, said Jennifer Fennell, a department spokeswoman. Madden will be responsible for coordinating telecommunications, wireless and information service for state agencies and local governments in Florida.

Florida Chief Information Officer Simone Marstiller, whose position was eliminated by the legislature, plans to take time off before considering her next career move.

Bush proposed reorganizing the technology office and moving its services and support functions to the Department of Management Services as part of its fiscal 2005-2006 budget proposal in January.

In his veto letter responding to SB 1494, Bush wrote that legislative dissatisfaction with the technology office did not justify legislating it out of existence.

He said the technology office had worked to build a consensus for enterprise IT governance and was a sound model for providing IT services to government entities. Through not fault of its own, the agency's efforts had been slow to gain acceptance.

"Our environment is naturally resistant to change," he wrote, "Agencies struggle for control of their resources and attempts to centrally manage systems and resources often incite posturing by agencies to avoid losing valuable resources. The State Technology Office has worked hard to overcome these challenges by working as a partner in IT-related matters."

Bush established the technology office in 2001 as a centralized organization within the executive branch responsible for setting statewide IT policy and supporting his vision for leveraging technology to foster and enterprise approach to managing IT.

The agency's work became a focal point of national attention in August 2003 when it awarded large IT outsourcing contracts to Accenture Ltd. and BearingPoint Inc. Those contracts were cancelled the following year for reasons that remain somewhat obscure but can be tied partly to a scathing report by the state auditor that criticized the contract administration.

The outsourcing deals were awarded by former Florida CIO Kim Bahrami, who subsequently resigned in February 2004. Marstiller, who took over four months later, terminated both contractors' outsourcing projects before the end of the year.

Marstiller said she made the best effort possible to develop working relationships with state agencies on IT matters. "I feel like I came in and moved the ball a little bit closer to the goal line that [was] the governor's overall vision. I didn't come in with any huge plans; I just wanted to keep the good work going."

About the Author

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

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