Eye on newsmakers

Greg Rothwell, Homeland Security Department

Why you should care

Rarely has a department been under such pressure to spend so much money so quickly.

What's up for 2004

Spending gets serious in 2004, as does the conflict between the need for speed and the interest in competition.

Amit Yoran, DHS

Why you should care

The private sector could get a much-needed kick in the pants to devise new security tactics and technology.

What's up for 2004

The National Cyber Security Strategy, released last February, sets the agenda.

David Safavian, Office of Federal Procurement Policy (nominated)

Why you should care

Safavian will set the tone and the parameters for the competitive sourcing debate.

What's up for 2004

Election-year politics could put Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76 on the back burner or bring the controversy to a boil.

Karen Evans, Office of Management and Budget

Why you should care

Evans replaces Mark Forman as the most visible proponent of the President's Management Agenda.

What's up for 2004

The agenda could fade as e-government initiatives wind down, or it could enter another productive phase.

Stephen Perry, General Services Administration

Why you should care

Perry's leadership will be paramount as GSA works through a period of transition.

What's up for 2004

Expect a major reshuffling of GSA's governmentwide IT contracts.

Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.)

Why you should care

Putnam represents a new generation of congressional leaders who intend to set and enforce federal technology policies.

What's up for 2004

Security, enterprise architecture and e-government top Putnam's agenda.

Kim Nelson, Environmental Protection Agency

Why you should care

Nelson seems poised to take an active role among chief information officers.

What's up for 2004

Look for her influence in areas such as enterprise architecture and e-government.

The difference a year makes

Some of the most pressing technology issues facing the federal government — competitive sourcing, security and e-government — have come to be viewed as extensions of the personalities of the individuals who champion them.

This past year brought significant changes in the ranks of government information technology leaders. So it's not surprising that questions arise about the future direction of administration policies, especially as President Bush's first term nears its end.

Will the President's Management Agenda remain in the spotlight, or will it recede into the shadows as election-year politics kick in? Will the Bush administration push agencies to compete work with the private sector, or will it let the issue slide until a presumed second term?

Sometimes, of course, the players don't change, but the circumstances do, as is the case with General Services Administration Administrator Stephen Perry, who looks to guide his agency into the future. What lies ahead for GSA?

The answers to these and other pressing questions may never show up in any official document. But pay attention to where these newsmakers go and what they say, and you will learn what you need to know.

Rothwell brings experience as change agent

Greg Rothwell should keep a big bottle of antacid in his desk drawer. As chief procurement officer at the Homeland Security Department, he will spend 2004 sorting out cultural and technological differences to create a unified procurement process among the agencies that form DHS.

DHS officials are also pushing to streamline procurement as much as possible, which has caused a fair amount of heartburn among industry officials hoping for a chance to bid on the department's projects. Rothwell, as much as anyone, is responsible for finding a balance between the interest in competition and the need for speed and innovation.

If anyone can do it, though, Rothwell can, say those who know him well. Prior to his DHS posting, he did similar work at the Internal Revenue Service.

"He came in to change the culture," said Bob Welch, a partner at Acquisition Solutions Inc. "Changing the culture of the IRS is no small matter. He built the strongest procurement organization on the civilian side of government."

"There are things that he can pick and choose that can make this a really cutting-edge agency in terms of procurement," said Anthony Anikeeff, a lawyer at the Washington, D.C., firm of Bracewell and Patterson LLP. "He did an amazing job over at the IRS. He's an innovator, and he's respected for that. The people I've talked to say he's strong-willed and gets along well with folks."

The task at DHS, however, is all the more difficult because of both its scope and urgency.

"Greg is one of the top-notch procurement officials in the government, [but] he's got a tremendous task," said Harvard professor Steve Kelman, a former Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator. "There's a lot of stuff going on and a lot of pressure for them to get their act together."

Yoran takes charge of cybersecurity

As director of DHS' National Cyber Security Division, Amit Yoran oversees one of the largest concentrations of security expertise outside the intelligence community.

Although the division has no oversight authority outside DHS, it will take a lead role in coordinating the federal government's response to cyberthreats. But that is just the start.

The Bush administration has tapped this group to work with organizations across the country to shore up the defenses of the nation's critical infrastructure and devise new tactics for protecting those vital systems. Those innovations, in turn, should help bolster the security of the government's internal systems.

Agencies will also be watching Yoran's interactions with the Office of Management and Budget, which directly controls federal security policy and oversight, according to one federal security official who asked not to be named.

Industry leaders, meanwhile, are paying close attention to Yoran's position on government regulation of security practices in the private sector, and they are doing everything possible to prevent such actions, said Dan Burton, vice president of government relations at Entrust Inc.

As Bush administration officials see it, much of the critical infrastructure — such as banking, utilities and commerce — is in the hands of private organizations. These groups must do their part to ensure the security of those systems.

Yoran has made it clear that the government could issue regulations, or even legislation, if industry falls behind government expectations on security.

Yoran comes to DHS from industry, most recently serving as vice president of managed security services at Symantec Corp. That doesn't mean, however, that industry will have an easy time with him, said Art Coviello, chief executive officer of RSA Security Inc.

Safavian joins A-76 debate

When David Safavian takes over as administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy for the departed Angela Styles, he'll find a landscape not much different from what Styles faced last year. Competitive sourcing remains the office's most troublesome battleground.

The obvious question is whether Safavian will take the same hard-line approach that Styles did. Or will he prove more conciliatory to federal employees? Another question that is more troubling to some is whether or not the issue will continue to dominate OFPP's agenda to the detriment of other procurement concerns.

"He is going to be the administration's point person on A-76," said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. "That's going to continue to be a large part of his time. However, I hardly think that that's going to be by any means the only use of his time."

Safavian, nominated for the OFPP job late last year and expected to be confirmed, is something of an unknown quantity, though hardly an outsider. He is currently chief of staff at GSA.

Styles, while not a friend to federal unions, was at least an honest broker, said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. Safavian is an unknown, and the unknowns are worrisome, she said.

"What I have been hoping is that the person who would move into this position would be as forthright as Angela Styles," she said. "This is a difficult issue that we have honest disagreements about, but I always got honest information from Angela. I'm hoping that if David is confirmed that he will be interested in working with us."

Charles Self, a consultant at McConnell International LLC who was deputy commissioner of GSA's Federal Technology Service until his retirement last year, predicted Safavian will not let initiatives languish in his procurement policy role.

Allen said that some proposals, including efforts to improve the federal acquisition workforce, foundered under Styles' watch.

"Those rules and regulations have pretty well been ignored for the past couple of years," Allen said. "I think that will stop happening because of him. Angela Styles spent very little time on anything having to do with reforming procurement rules."

Evans to keep the rudder steady

When Karen Evans took the reins from Mark Forman as OMB's administrator for e-government and information technology, onlookers wondered how she would put her own stamp on the program.

Now they believe that she won't rock the boat and never planned to. This year, the final one of the first Bush term, is about continuing the momentum that Forman built to drive home the President's Management Agenda.

"Karen seems to have made it clear nothing will change," said Dave McClure, vice president of e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government.

Having come up through the government ranks, Evans brought career experience and credibility to her position, Kelman said.

Although it's too early to tell if she will make a significant impact, he said, her high regard among agency officials gives her the support she needs to see the e-government initiatives through to completion in 2004. Her focus will likely be on improving performance and demonstrating results. With not much time left in the term, she must do so with a sense of urgency.

"I think she's got to make hay while the sun shines," said Bob Woods, chairman of the Industry Advisory Council. "She's got to get things done."

Perry leads GSA through period of transition

As administrator of GSA, Stephen Perry is about to steer the agency through some of the roughest waters since he took the position in 2001. The 2002 realignment of two of GSA's three major branches continues to reverberate.

The agency will eliminate some contracts deemed unnecessary, while continuing work on a sweeping new telecommunications contract. An effort to add professional services contracts to the agency's assisted procurement offerings will accelerate. And an investigation into a scandal involving the misuse of IT funds, and GSA's efforts to prevent a recurrence, will continue to unfold.

As leader of the agency, Perry will need to apply a firm and steady hand to make it all flow smoothly.

Perry has been setting up internal benchmarks to measure the agency's progress in realigning its Federal Supply Service and Federal Technology Service, Allen said. The time is coming when he will have to show how those internal processes lead to better management, he said.

"Congress clearly is supportive of Mr. Perry and his initiatives right now," Allen said. "2004 will be the payoff year. They will want some results."

Not everyone is as supportive. Kelman said GSA is not using its schedule contracts as effectively as it could to get better value for government — an issue Perry and other senior leaders should address, he said.

Perry said he believes the agency is on the right path. His concern is to make changes that won't fade with the next election. "We want to do this in a way that has permanence," he said, "so that it transcends the current [agency] leadership, even the current administration."

Putnam puts stamp on IT agenda

Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), is the House's point man for federal technology policy.

Other members play significant roles, but as chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census Subcommittee, Putnam is actively involved in how federal agencies implement everything from electronic records to information security. And that is keeping him on government and industry radar screens.

The numerous technology-related hearings that Putnam held in 2003 were only the beginning of where he plans to go with his oversight responsibilities. Top concerns for the subcommittee include enterprise architecture, the Bush administration's e-government initiatives and industry's role in supporting agencies and ensuring the nation's security.

Security is the first topic to get extensive attention in the new year. In December, Putnam issued the latest set of security grades for federal agencies and gave the government as a whole a D — an improvement, however, over the F it received the previous three years. Now observers say Putnam needs to use them to compel improvement.

"The report cards need to be more than just issuing a letter grade," said Ed Roback, chief of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Computer Security Division.

"If you buy the idea that there's a chance for government leadership to make a difference, then he's the person who can be the bully pulpit for that," said Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute, a security education and research organization in Washington, D.C.

Nelson a presence beyond EPA

Since assuming the role of chief information officer at the Environmental Protection Agency in November 2001, Kim Nelson has continually increased her visibility and broadened her reach beyond her agency. This year will be no exception for Nelson. Onlookers expect to see more governmentwide involvement from this up-and-coming CIO.

"She does things other than her regular job," Woods said. "That's how I start noticing people: When they are doing more than going to their agency meetings. People begin to see she's got some talent. She's a person with some capability."

Recently named co-chairwoman of the CIO Council's Architecture and Infrastructure Committee, Nelson has the ability to participate in important governmentwide initiatives, and she's running with it.

Nelson came from Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, which impressed upon her the importance of implementation, said Debra Stouffer, vice president of strategic consulting services at DigitalNet LLC and former EPA chief technology officer.

"She's very forward-thinking, and she's also well-grounded," Stouffer said.

Observers expect her to continue to champion the management agenda and encourage partnership among agencies, much as she has done at the EPA as the managing partner of the E-Rulemaking initiative. Meanwhile, she'll be increasing her visibility.

"I think she'll get more comfortable with it, and people will start knowing she's there," Woods said. "She's obviously bright. She's obviously hard-working."

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