Gov. Chris Christie has appointed a chief technology officer and assigned the individual, David Weinstein, with Cabinet-level status reporting directly to the governor.

Christie said the state government must do more to both safeguard the private information it receives from residents and provide a better, more user-friendly experience for the public.

“All of us see both the great potential in the burgeoning expansion of technology but we also see the perils that are involved as well,” Christie said.

Weinstein will oversee a revamped version of the Office of Information Technology. He already works for the Christie administration as chief information security officer for the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and is a former senior civilian at United States Cyber Command at Fort Meade.

Chief Technology Officer
David Weinstein is being appointed New Jersey's chief technology officer. (Tim Larsen/Governor's Office)

“Technology is both a great risk to the state but it also presents great opportunities,” Weinstein said.

“We’ll continue the work that we’ve done over the past two years to mitigate the risk, but we’ll also take very aggressive steps for the remainder of this administration to capitalize on the opportunity that technology presents the departments and agencies of this government,” he said.

Christie said “cybersecurity is the top priority” and that the current state budget includes $10 million for hardening systems against the most sophisticated cyber threats, including performing comprehensive audits of the state’s infrastructure and network over the course of the next year.

“Doing so will not only ensure that we protect the confidentiality, the availability and the integrity of our IT systems, but it will also ensure that we protect the privacy of our citizens, who entrust the government with some of their most sensitive personal information,” Christie said.

Christie said the state must also improve its use of technology.

“I refuse to accept what too many people have come to consider true, that government will always lag behind the private sector when it comes to technological innovation. We don’t have to, and it would be wrong for us to accept that,” Christie said.

The move comes six and a half years after the group that studied the Department of the Treasury for Christie’s transition into office recommended establishing the position of chief technology officer and suggested the Office of Information Technology should be made a separate department.

“Technology transformations don’t take place overnight, but our progress over the next 18 months will pave the way for the next governor, whoever it is, to continue what we’ve started,” Christie said.

Christie noted he’s been a victim of identity theft. In April 2014, Christie’s name and Social Security number were among hundreds found in a notebook of someone being arrested on drug charges in a Virginia hotel room. The suspect ultimately pleaded guilty to re-encoding credit cards.

“There’s very little that’s more disruptive to your personal life and to your professional life than being the victim of identity theft,” Christie said.

“After it happens to you, it is an everyday occurrence that creates risk to you and your family, both personal and financial, and creates enormous inconvenience – which would be the nicest way of putting it,” he said. “I’ve had more tax returns filed in my name in the last three years than I can count because people obtained my information and were trying to file federal tax returns on my behalf. I mean, there’s crazy stuff that happens.”

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