Connecting state and local government leaders
The new law calls for the consolidation of common tech services and makes the Iowa Communications Network a non-cabinet agency.
A government realignment effort signed into law this week by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) will impact on some of the state’s tech efforts, including by consolidating services and removing a department from the list of cabinet agencies.
Within that law are two tech-related measures: consolidation of “common technology and services” in state government and the moving of the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) from a cabinet-level agency to one of 10 agencies to be designated as non-cabinet.
ICN provides a statewide fiber-optic network for education, health care, government and public safety, in addition to security and connectivity as well as professional services. Its management, development and operation are overseen by the Iowa Telecommunications and Technology Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. The ITTC also appoints ICN’s executive director.
Despite what may appear to be a demotion, ICN spokesperson Lori Larsen said the move to make the agency non-cabinet will have “no impact or change in the administration or operation of the network.” Larsen said ICN was involved in discussions regarding the reorganization plan and going forward, will still have “regular cadence and information sharing with the Governor's office.” The change comes on the heels of the agency celebrating its 30th anniversary earlier this year.
Also of note in Reynolds’ plan was the idea to consolidate common technologies and services, all part of an overall proposal she said in previous statements would save $215 million over the next four years, “improve how the executive branch works together” and “elevate services for Iowans.”
Representatives with Iowa’s Office of the Chief Information Officer did not respond to requests for comment on whether they had a strategy for the consolidation.
Other states have looked to merge their agencies’ IT and technology services, especially as they close state-owned data centers and move to the cloud to try and save taxpayer dollars.
Pennsylvania attempted to consolidate IT operations in 2021 through legislation that lawmakers said at the time would “strengthen and future-proof state government as technologies improve and criminals become more sophisticated.” That legislation ultimately failed in the state House during its last session, but during a public hearing on the topic before the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, IT leaders from other states shared their success stories and lessons they had learned.
In written testimony before the panel, Utah Chief Information Officer Alan Fuller said consolidation under a law passed in 2005 resulted in fewer state data centers and fewer employees, and it united technology services and governance in the executive branch under one department. He said it also helped streamline the procurement process, reduced redundancies and improved application support.
Former Michigan CIO Dan Lohrmann said his state experienced similar benefits from consolidation, which also helped the state improve its security posture and ability to recover from attacks.
Consolidation can be hard to pull off, however, national-level officials reminded that panel. National Association of State Chief Information Officers Executive Director Doug Robinson testified that while consolidation and optimization have consistently been a top priority for state CIOs nationwide, a lack of funding, a change-resistant workforce and agencies’ desire for continued autonomy are just some of the long-standing obstacles.
Robinson said consolidation can be successful with strong executive support—something that Iowa appears to have in this realignment plan—in addition to a shared vision, an effective strategy, trust among stakeholders and employees and predictable funding.