New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week signed an executive order that seeks to consolidate the state’s IT staff and operations. Currently each state agency has its own IT staff, which means that personal information from private citizens is handled by multiple state departments and agencies. Christie is concerned that this potentially increases data security and cybersecurity risks.
“If any of you in this room have gone through the nightmare of identity theft, and I have, it’s ugly,” Christie said, describing the need for his executive order. “We need to do everything we can to make sure we don’t contribute to that possibility for any one of our citizens.”
Christie said the executive order “is setting in motion a course of action that will deliver more secure, efficient, and more reliable IT services across the entire branch of state government.”
However, Christie does acknowledge that not all in the state government will be thrilled with the decision. He said he understands that department leaders will likely not want to relinquish any staff members to a centralized Office of Information Technology.
“What I’m really saying is I am tired of having each department have their own IT stuff,” Christie said at a news conference at the Office of Information Technology. “It makes no sense. We have an Office of Information Technology, they should manage this, they should run it.”
The executive order calls for Dave Weinstein, the state’s chief technology officer, to complete an inventory of each department and agency’s IT assets to identify common assets that can be combined. The order stipulates that Weinstein will ask all department and agency heads to submit an inventory of all information technology infrastructure assets under the management of department or agency staff, as well as a roster of all staff performing information technology infrastructure functions and operations, to the CTO within 30 days.
“This puts every Cabinet member on notice that for the last seven months in office, we are going to inexorably begin the conversion to a centralized IT function at OIT,” Christie said. “Bob Martin can focus on protecting the environment, not worrying about how his IT is working. Beth Connolly can worry about dealing with the human services she has across the state. Allison Blake is taking care of children and families. And so on and so on.”
There was one caveat to the consolidation order: If a department or agency has a software program that is used only by them, then they will maintain direct supervision over that program.
Christie described IT consolidation as nonpartisan.
“We need to have the people that best understand [information technology] in charge of making those decisions,” Christie said. “This is about a common sense approach to taking us to a new level. You know when your computer goes down they don’t ask you whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican.”