State and local governments grasp for IT aid, announce key personnel moves

This week brought several new appointments in key positions in state and local government IT shops, along with continued actions from Congress that will affect the economic support that technology agencies receive as they respond to the pandemic.

The $3 trillion stimulus bill House Democrats unveiled Tuesday would set aside about a third of that funding for state and local governments, but no specific IT or cybersecurity funding it included, despite continued lobbying from groups like the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. But on Thursday, Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., said dedicated IT funding for states and localities could show up in the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill expected to be voted on this summer.

Counties and other local governments, meanwhile, are succeeding to varying degrees in supporting their communities through the use of information technology. But some complain that slow internet connections, poor preparation and a shortage of institutional knowledge about now-critical software, like video conferencing tools, is cramping response efforts.

Local 911 systems, too, say their operations are being impeded by a misclassification of 911 call-takers, with many reporting difficulty in obtaining cleaning supplies or rapid results on COVID-19 testing. And for the months ahead, nearly 40 percent of public safety answering point administrators recently surveyed said they plan to scale back their operations and upgrades in light of anticipated budget cuts.

In job moves, the City of Los Angeles on Monday named Jeanne Holm, who has spent the past four years as its deputy chief information officer and technology adviser to Mayor Eric Garcetti, as its new chief data officer. California hired former business management consultant Udaya Patnaik to lead its new Office of Digital Innovation. And longtime government technology leader Keith Tresh has found a new home in Idaho, where he now serves as the chief information security officer.

And lest anyone forget that ransomware is a persistent threat, the Texas Office of Court Administration recently discovered a ransomware attack on its systems, which forced administrators to take several of its websites and servers offline.