State CIOs aid White House in homeland security plan

State chief information officers are coalescing to help the White House Office of Homeland Security with technology-related components of the national homeland security strategy.

Homeland Security CIO Steve Cooper this week asked the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) to designate some members to help his office decide the technology aspects of the strategy, which is expected to be released in July. NASCIO likely will name those CIOs next week.

Cooper "wants to make sure that whatever blueprint Homeland Security puts out we're in line with," NASCIO President and Connecticut CIO Rock Regan told reporters Thursday. Regan said there is an "extraordinary relationship" between NASCIO, the White House and Congress on tech issues, particularly those addressing homeland security.

NASCIO members were in Washington this week to increase the visibility of the group. They met with lawmakers, Bush administration officials, staffers to lawmakers from their states and industry representatives on issues such as homeland security, identity security, commingling of information technology funds, the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)--which promulgated health privacy rules--e-government, bioterrorism and cybersecurity.

NASCIO members met with a host of officials, including White House Office of Management and Budget e-government chief Mark Forman, Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office Director John Tritak, Treasury CIO Jim Flyzik, and officials from the FBI, CIA, Justice Department and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"I think we were received very well," Regan and other CIOs said, adding that they are working to become a key federal resource on state IT perspectives.

"We're involved in everything from ID cards for physical security to making sure we have cyber security in place," said Kentucky CIO Aldona Valicenti. "There's an opportunity for us to give a much deeper understanding of what the issues are."

Georgia CIO Larry Singer said lawmakers were "surprised" at how many IT issues are involved in policies surrounding the implementation of various initiatives. "It literally just doesn't come into their minds," he said.

Iowa CIO Richard Varn stressed that discussions between NASCIO and congressional staffers about identity security were not the same as the heated debated about a national ID card but more about the IT systems governments need to secure "living documents," such as driver's licenses and birth certificates.

"We tried to make the distinction between identity security and everything else they're talking about," Varn said.

Singer noted that when it comes to privacy issues--many of which surround talks of post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism initiatives--lawmakers "are concerned about moving too fast."

The CIOs also stressed during their meetings the need for more funds for implementing federal mandates such as HIPAA and for homeland security initiatives, such as cybersecurity. They said that states, for the most part, have absorbed the costs more cyber security.

These initiatives are a "double whammy" for most states as they continue to face budget shortages, Valicenti said.

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