Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stopping your Vital Information from being at Risk

Knowing what you know about the ineffectiveness of the government, do you really trust the government to protect your most vital information?

This year, state government must cut state spending by about 600 million dollars (closer to 900 million, if you count spend that will be offset by previously mandated increases). This forces state leaders to enact needed reforms that should have occurred many years ago.

One of these reforms is the centralization of the state's massive and (up until now) rather chaotically managed information technology (IT) functions.

Each year, state government has been spending $340,577,938 of your hard-earned tax dollars on IT and telecommunications. This does not count the salaries of the hundreds of state employees who are assigned to IT departments. These IT functions are spread out on an agency-by-agency basis, with each agency capable of creating their own IT empire.

Can you imagine what would happen to a private business that did not efficiently coordinate the actions of a department that spent in excess of 340 million dollars?

This year I am working with Senate Pro Tem Glenn Coffee as the House author of his Senate Bill 980, and State Representative David Derby as the co-author of House Bill 1704 to craft a plan that will break down these barriers and allow for the direct coordination of state government IT functions.

The obvious reason for this reform is savings. Let's consider how much the state spends on energy costs associated with duplicative server capacity. While private businesses are taking advantage of cloud computing and blade servers with shared power sources, too many antiquated government servers are using too much energy. How much sense does it make for Agency A to use a different server system than Agency B when they easily use the same storage device? Millions of taxpayers dollars could probably be saved each year if duplicated servers were eliminated and new technology was used to maximize speed and space.

A second very important reason for reform is that of security. Today, government computers contain everything from your tax returns to your biometric description. State computer systems are constantly under attack from those who would like to steal this information. State officials must constantly guard against these attacks. One of the most frequent originators of these attacks is from Communist China, where there is no way for our law enforcement officials to bring those responsible to justice. The fact that the Chinese are working so hard to steal our information is very concerning. One of the more disturbing incidents includes the successful compromise about two years ago of a local law enforcement database known as OLETS, which Oklahoma law enforcement agencies use to access information pertinent to the security of our communities.

Under current state law, as is all too often the case in government, potential security issues must be mitigated through a long, complicated, multi-step bureaucratic process. In today's rapidly changing technology, we no longer have the luxury of letting a bureaucratic, slow-moving government put our vital information at risk.

Senate Bill 980 and House Bill 1704 are part of the agenda of both the House and Senate leadership and I have been honored to work with Senator Coffee and Representative Derby in advancing this important reform.

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