No time for complacency

The continued exodus of top-level officials at the Office of Management and Budget leaves the President's Management Agenda in a precarious position.

During the past two years, Mitchell Daniels Jr., Mark Forman, Norm Lorentz and Angela Styles have engineered a potentially dramatic change in how federal agencies buy, manage and use information technology.

Those individuals have personally championed the management agenda. They also have begun building the agenda into the budget process, not only as a way to enforce it but also to institutionalize it.

But with Daniels and Forman gone, and Lorentz and Styles on their way out, the President's Management Agenda is at risk of becoming nothing more than a statement of good intentions, dusted off for public speeches but otherwise ignored.

That doesn't have to be the case, though. Forman's replacement, Karen Evans, is one reason for optimism.

Having come up through the ranks in government, Evans understands federal agencies' day-to-day operations . Having served as chief information officer of the Energy Department and vice chairwoman of the CIO Council, she recognizes the difficulties involved in changing how those agencies operate.

If the Bush administration remains committed to the management agenda, it should leave no doubt. Evans must be given a visible and meaningful show of support.

The administration should take the same care in naming Styles' replacement.

Styles, director of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, has been a lightning rod of sorts for the most controversial aspect of the management agenda: competitive sourcing. OMB officials must decide now whether they want to push ahead or begin backpedaling. Either way, the next OFPP director needs clear direction and steadfast backing.

Is the President's Management Agenda worth pursuing? The Bush administration needs to call it one way or another. The worst choice is to let it fail by default.

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