Virginia’s interim CIO cues up post-contract plans

Eric Link has only served as Virginia’s interim chief information officer for a few months, and now only has two more weeks left on the job, but that doesn’t mean he’s not taking a wide view of the state’s future.

Link will soon be returning to his former duties as the Virginia Information Technologies Agency’s executive director for legal and legislative services, leaving a number of state IT initiatives to his successor, Nelson Moe, who was appointed this week as the commonwealth’s next CIO, beginning June 8.

One of Link’s chief concerns was positioning the state for a future after an IT outsourcing contract with Northrop Grumman expires in 2019, he told StateScoop TV at last month’s National Association of State Chief Information Officers midyear conference in Alexandria, Virginia.

“I know we’re in 2015, and that sounds like a long time away,” Link said. “But, in terms of planning for the next phase of our IT sourcing service provision, it’s really right around the corner.”

While the final decision on what to do about the expiration of the Northrop Grumman contract will lie with Moe, Link said a number of factors go into the evaluation of where the state will be as the contract expires and where the state wants to go.

According to Link, the state has begun working with a consultant to evaluate how to provide the services that Northrop Grumman offers — mainly IT management — when the contract expires. In addition, Link said a main challenge for the state will be picking up where Northrop Grumman leaves off and determining how to continue to offer effective services in an IT landscape that is dramatically different than the one the original contract was signed in.

“When we signed the contract with Northrop Grumman in 2005, the first iPhone wouldn’t be introduced for over a year and a half. [Now], I doubt that a lot of people can remember their lives before a smartphone,” Link said. “We want to try to make sure that we’re figuring out where the market is going, and try to find the sweet spot for that service delivery.”

That and a host of other decisions will now shift to Moe, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 10 years  — 3 1/2 as CIO – and who has also worked at several IT startups and small companies.

Link is likely to play an important role in the process, however. In returning to his former position as VITA’s executive director for legal and legislative services, Link will once again oversee the legal and legislative affairs that pertain to the agency, and advise VITA staff, including the state CIO, on how the agency should comply with the commonwealth’s law