• Speculation Over, Brown Formally Initiates Plan to Downgrade California Technology Agency

    April 3rd, 2012 by admin Categories: Blogs Tags: , , , , , , ,

    Over the last month or so, there has been some speculation that Jerry Brown’s FY2012-13 budget plan which called for downgrading the State’s primary technology organization was going away. After all the Agency Secretary has been recently confirmed (though somewhat awkwardly) by the Senate Rules Committee, and thus there was a glimmer of hope.

    As you may recall, the Brown budget’s proposed re-organization would change the California Technology Agency from a Cabinet Agency to just another state department, albeit one responsible for over $10 billion in state spending. However, rumors that it was off the table were apparently just whistling past the graveyard, and the confirmation hearing turned out to be a farce after all.

    Last Friday, March 30, 2012, the Administration presented the Little Hoover Commission with its formal re-organization plan officially starting the clock, as Jon Ortiz points out in his column over the weekend, to end the three year old Agency’s cabinet status.

    The Commission which approved the creation of the Agency almost exactly three years ago, now is being asked by Governor Brown to do an about face.

    As Ortiz explains, “Little Hoover has 30 days to review the plan and issue recommendations to the Governor and Legislature. The plan goes into effect unless a majority in either the Assembly or the Senate reject it within 60 days of receiving the commission’s report.”

    Unfortunately, the Commission’s imprimatur is not necessary, as the legislature and the calendar call the shots at this point. Barring a miracle, the new “Department of Technology” as it’s been modestly renamed will assume its new organizational status within the new Operations Agency at the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1, 2012, along with other “strategic” (I jest) state departments including General Services, Human Resources, Administrative Law, State Personnel and Retirement Systems. The Governor’s wording in his letter to the Commission with regard to the new Department of Technology is telling:

    The new department of technology retains state-wide authority to centralize and unify the State’s information technology projects. And its alignment with other administrative service programs will enhance its ability to develop, launch, manage, and monitor large informational– technology projects…[italics mine]

    You’d think someone would have proofed this letter who had some idea what they were talking about. Specifying projects where they clearly meant infrastructure; and informationaltechnology???? Please…

    In January TechLeader.TV reacted to the Governor’s plan. You can watch it here. Salient points:

    It had taken the State and three Administrations a decade and a half to organize, empower and centralize state IT operations, from what began as a small policy making office with just a few dozen staff when I was the first state CIO, loosely overseeing a decentralized State IT leviathan.  Created in 2010, the new California Technology Agency now directly oversees a consolidated operation with a workforce of a thousand employees and controls virtually every aspect of state IT spending for all 130 state departments. The Brown Administration inherited perhaps the strongest CIO governance model among all state governments in the U.S., and perhaps federal sector as well. The kind of organization whereby significant and far-reaching IT enabled efficiencies can now be thrust upon government operations at all levels.

    TechLeader.TV will certainly continue to voice our strong support for a strong, Technology Agency in the Cabinet. This is hardly the time to roll back the clock. In Governor Brown’s State of the State (in January 2012), he had barely begun when he highlighted the fact that California was the birthplace and home of Apple, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, QUALCOMM, Twitter, Facebook and countless other creative companies. I suggest he query these CEO’s about the role technology plays in their organizations and whether their chief information officers have a seat on their executive leadership committee. I think we all know the answer he would get. Plus the Governor has an able and good man, his CIO, Carlos Ramos. Seek his counsel as well, as you ponder the impact of this decision.

    There have been sporadic stories since the January unveiling of Brown’s plan to downgrade the Technology Agency as to the genesis of his decision. Speculation includes Brown’s well documented disinterest in state technology. As Attorney General he did not displayed significant interest as demonstrated by the fact that during his four year tenure he did not appoint a strong CIO to oversee DOJ’s vast IT resources and Hawkins Data Center, hiring a journeyman contractor instead. Over the last year until his new budget, his technology related initiatives have been relegated to confiscating mobile phones, in the era of mobility no less, shutting down the state transparency web site, and supporting an Internet tax.

    With the news about a billion dollar project being cancelled at the State Courts, a new $350 million payroll system project continuing to frustrate officials at the Controller’s Office, a new financial system whose budget was just slashed by $700 million, just to name a few, now is not the time to be downgrading the state’s primary IT Agency responsible for overseeing these huge initiatives.

    Interestingly, there have also been a number of reports from both state IT officials and vendors who have recounted how certain administration officials have clearly indicated that the state’s IT profile should be lowered, discouraging publicity about state IT developments, even positive ones.

    At TechLeader.TV we have some thoughts about where this is all coming from, and will be sharing them with our viewers during the next 90 days, and with the Little Hoover Commission as well.


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