New Hampshire has a Department of Information Technology (really), and that department has a commissioner. This week the state is on the verge of passing a law ordering the commissioner to be advised by the Information Technology Council in an eighth specific subject area. The first seven are also mandated by law. And you thought information technology was supposed to make state government more efficient.
Legislators in 2008 moved the information technology office out of the Department of Safety, of all places, and turned it into a real boy; well, they gave it department status anyway. But they did not really trust it with full departmental power. Like other department heads, the IT commissioner is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Executive Council. Unlike other department heads, he must submit regularly to the advice and counsel of his peers — other department heads — as well as legislators.
The 2008 law that created the IT Department also created the Information Technology Council. It sounds like “Star Wars” meets “Star Trek” meets the movie “Office Space”: A Jedi Council full of Vulcans who issue volumes of technical reports. But the Information Technology Council does not have Jedi or Vulcans. It does not even have IT guys. It is made up of seven state department heads, two legislators, one local government official, one county government official and “one person appointed by the governor….” If the law said “person or other sentient being,” maybe we could get a Vulcan.
The IT Council is charged by law with advising the IT commissioner on “statewide strategic technology plans,” “information technology policies and standards,” “information technology budgeting and resource allocation” and four other specific items. House Bill 1327, up for a vote in the Senate today, would add data security to the list.
In case you were wondering, the IT Commissioner does not just implement the IT Council’s agenda. He has 15 specific duties prescribed by law, including providing “information technology consultation” and “technical advice” to every state department and agency. So the commissioner is charged by law with advising his advisers on the topics on which they advise him. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your government at work.
The IT commissioner is a busy guy. He is in charge of the state government’s computer systems and improving efficiency in every state department. He should receive input from other departments, but it is bureaucratic overkill to have him sit before a council of bureaucrats and elected officials so they can tell him how to do his job. Instead of loading the IT commissioner with more directives, legislators should be looking for ways to let him do his job more efficiently.
Although it might not matter anyway. According to the IT Department website, the IT Council last met on Aug. 17 — 2012. One of its listed members, Sen. Jim Forsyth, did not run for re-election in 2012. Either the IT Council is defunct, or the IT Department has been too busy to update its own website since May of 2013. Maybe we should let the IT Department catch up with its work before we pile more directives on the commissioner.