Mississippi CIO sets sights on workforce, cyber challenges

Mississippi Chief Information Officer Craig Orgeron, like CIOs in most states, faces a host of challenges and priorities to tackle. But his biggest concerns these days is addressing the need to strengthen his backbench of IT talent while also getting ahead of cybersecurity concerns.

“We’re going to really stay focused on IT workforce issues,” Mississippi’s Chief Information Officer, Craig Orgeron, told StateScoop TV. “A lot of states are struggling with that issue, and it’s something that will get talked about a good bit.”

A former president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, Orgeron echoed the findings of a NASCIO report on state workforce issues, which said that 86 percent of state CIOs are having difficulty recruiting new employees to fill vacant IT positions.

“We have gotten to the place, similar to many other states, where the pay scale and certain job structures are just dated,” Orgeron said. “It increases the demand on recruitment. Recruiting is that much more difficult to get done.”

In addition to attempting to solve some of the workforce challenges that plague Mississippi and other states, Orgeron is also pushing for the creation of a CIO Council at the state level that can be used to better the strategic dialogue in the state and allow the state’s top tech officials to plan, budget and develop services at a high level.

The council will focus on “peeling the onion back” on how the state looks at cloud, and provide a forum to help create what Orgeron called a “cyber community” that listens and works with other states to ensure that cybersecurity is handled the way it should be.

“One of my biggest concerns on the policy side of cyber is that you misposition it so that you end up asking for or thinking that you need to get funding and then you have fixed it. You haven’t fixed it,” Orgeron said. “It’s an evolving threat.”

In Mississippi, the state is mapping its state cybersecurity policy alongside the framework established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology — something Virginia, and other states have already done. Through that alignment, Orgeron said it would provide a better platform for the state’s government to coordinate efforts with the federal government, and open the state up for to receive grants and other federal dollars.

“That’s one of the challenges that happens, right?” Orgeron said. “You want to be in line with the federal government, and so, as dollars or programs flow, the state is positioned very well.