The Florida Agency for State Technology (AST) took one step closer to its grave with the unanimous approval of House Bill 5301 in the state House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
The bill, approved 27-0, would terminate the agency and most of its 40-odd employees, placing the remaining seven full-time positions under the Department of Management Services as legislative advisors. If the bill passes, it would mean the fourth incarnation of the state’s technology office in 12 years.
Erin Choy, external affairs manager for AST, told StateScoop the office was “disappointed” by the decision, which could potentially open the state to new cybersecurity threats.
“The state CIO and the chief information security officer of the third largest state will no longer have visibility into the state’s infrastructure and the agencies’ infrastructure that reside in the state data center,” Choy said. “There’s no dotted line. As we all know, the threats from outside entities are prevalent and changing every day and if the head of state of Florida for IT and head for IT security do not have a view into critical systems, that is a potential vulnerability.”
Interim state CIO Eric Larson told StateScoop the legislation is “disturbing” and represents a reversal of work undertaken in recent years to build an enterprise IT organization. This restructuring would release technology purchases, like cloud deployments, back to the discretion of individual agencies.
Bill sponsor and Republican chairman Rep. Blaise Ingoglia called the agency’s efforts “noble” but noted that “out-of-control” spending and a failure to fill 21 percent of the agency’s open positions meant it was time to try a new structure.
This bill threatens to remove state technology funding for AST totaling $7.9 million and instead allocate $1.8 million for a new office.
Recent plans by AST to install a geographic information systems office and a chief data officer may still continue forward in some capacity, though not with the same vision and oversight originally anticipated by AST. The legislation calls for the creation of a chief data officer position within the new agency, though that position would also exist solely to advise, not to create policy.
The bill is scheduled be discussed before the full House on April 12.
Rep. Ingoglia was not available for comment.