Massachusetts governor wants cyber at cabinet level

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In this Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, file photo, Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker takes questions from members of the media during a news conference at the Statehouse in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker asked lawmakers Thursday for authority to appoint a Secretary of Technology, a new position within state government with responsibility for such things as cybersecurity, data management and digital operations.

Legislation filed by the Republican governor calls for replacing the current Massachusetts Office of Information Technology — known as MassIT — with an Executive Office of Technology Services & Security.

The revamped department would be charged with centralizing and coordinating IT operations and services across all agencies of state government and would enjoy cabinet-level status in Baker’s administration.

“The pace of technology innovation is accelerating, led by many of the world-class IT and cybersecurity organizations that call Massachusetts home,” said Baker in a statement citing the need for centralization and creation of the technology secretariat.

The Legislature is required to hold a public hearing on the governor’s bill within 30 days.

Administration officials noted that Massachusetts would join several other states, including California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, which have fully centralized IT operations. Many of those states also have secretaries of technology or chief information officers.

Standardizing digital operations will help protect sensitive information held by state government and guard against cyber attacks, officials said.

The new department “will drive an enterprise approach to our technology architecture and procurement, making the Commonwealth more secure and efficient,” said Mark Nunnelly, the current executive director of MassIT.