Evans takes e-gov helm

Karen Evans, chief information officer at the Energy Department, was named as e-government chief Mark Forman's replacement in an unusually swift action last week intended to keep the momentum rolling for the President's Management Agenda.

Her appointment was announced only two weeks after Forman left the job as administrator of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of E-Government and Information Technology. And it could not have come at a better time, observers say, because OMB is facing a sudden and dramatic brain drain.

Norm Lorentz, OMB's chief technology officer, also announced his resignation to take a job in the private sector. And Angela Styles, who ran the agency's Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said she is returning to her law firm Sept. 15 (see "Styles took hits for OMB agenda," Page 11).

Other OMB departures are expected in the next few months, according to government officials.

"It is unfortunate that so many good people are leaving OMB," said Roger Baker, former CIO at the Commerce Department and now an executive vice president at CACI International Inc.

But Transportation Department CIO Daniel Matthews said the departures of Forman, Lorentz, Styles and OMB Director Mitchell Daniels in June "will not have a negative impact on OMB's ability to do its job."

Lorentz, who will join DigitalNet Inc. as senior vice president in charge of civilian government work, agreed. He described the departures as an "ordinary cycle of change." In the next two weeks, he said, OMB will announce the appointment of a chief architect to help carry out the president's mandates.

Evans, a career federal worker tapped for a political job that does not require Senate confirmation, said she is committed to the Bush administration's agenda for management change. She pledged to continue working on the 24 e-government initiatives that are part of President Bush's five-part management agenda.

"We're not stopping," Evans said. "The train has left the station. We're going to complete the initiatives because it's the right thing to do."

For the past 10 months, Evans has been a deputy of sorts to Forman, serving as vice chairwoman of the CIO Council. With her promotion, Evans is asking for a volunteer to fill that position.

At last week's annual Interagency Resources Management Conference in Cambridge, Md., Evans outlined her priorities and told the gathering that e-government is not just about office automation.

E-government is about providing better services to the public and using technology to make life better for citizens, she said. And it is about evaluating things such as how a dirty bomb might impact a community or the effect an electrical blackout has as it sweeps across the Northeast.

"The President's Management Agenda is really about why you guys come to work," Evans said. "Those five elements are very important to the way your agency works. IT is the enable.... It's the glue that will hold all that together."

Evans said she is being challenged to continue the track record set by Forman, the first e-government executive to institutionalize many management reforms.

Unlike Forman, who came from industry, Evans' experience is strictly in government. However, she said she intends to develop partnerships with the private sector and "reach across the table to industry."

"I do not consider myself an IT czar," she said. "I'm not a tyrant...I'm not a ruler. I'm Karen Evans, mother of two, wife of Randy. I live in West Virginia.... I do IT."

Industry and government officials applauded Evans' appointment. Ira Hobbs, co-chairman of the CIO Council's Workforce and Human Capital for IT Committee, said Evans and Forman have worked closely together on the Bush administration's e-government initiatives so the transition will be easy.

"Karen and Mark were almost symbiotic in their relationship," Hobbs said. "It is almost like a natural extension."

Hobbs said it is good to have Evans step into the role because it means the initiatives can maintain their momentum.

"Mark set a strong foundation, a very fast pace," he said. "That's always difficult to come behind. It's like we didn't stop the train to let Mark off, and we've got a capable engineer to keep the train moving."

David Marin, communications and policy director for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which oversees e-government initiatives, said Davis "has great expectations in terms of [Evans'] ability to pick up where Mark Forman left off."

"He's hopeful she'll show the same commitment to crafting a government that is more efficient, productive and cost-effective — a government that prides itself on being citizen-centric and user-friendly," Marin said.

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