On the circuit
- By Mark Bisnow
- Jun 13, 2005
John Koskinen likes to keep people guessing. Ten years ago, as deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, he surprised many by telling the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that OMB should not replace the General Services Administration in managing information technology. He also said the chief information officer function should be placed in individual agencies rather than centralized at OMB.
That testimony went against Koskinen's self-interest, because he would have been the most likely choice to serve as a governmentwide CIO. The Clinger-Cohen Act that followed those committee hearings has placed CIO responsibilities squarely in agencies ever since.
Koskinen is again confounding expectations. After serving as the Year 2000 czar during the Clinton administration and then, once again confounding expectations, as deputy mayor and city administrator of the formerly bankrupt District of Columbia, he left government. And, though he had previously served 21 years as a leading turnaround specialist for corporate America, he didn't go back into business either.
Today, Koskinen is president of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. His goal is to spread excitement about the sport.
Growing up in Kentucky, Koskinen played center on his high school's football team and knew nothing of soccer. But in the mid-1970s, when his son started playing soccer, Koskinen began learning the game, and pretty soon he was coaching both his son's and daughter's travel teams. He got so hooked he started a professional league in 1987 and even owned one of the teams "a great hedge against wealth creation," he chuckles.
Koskinen joined the board of the foundation when it was created in 1993 out of surplus funds from the effort to bring the the World Cup to Washington, but he dropped out when he went to OMB and then rejoined when he left the White House. After leaving the D.C. post, he was asked to be the foundation's interim chief executive officer and wryly notes it was hard to claim he didn't have time. A couple of weeks later, he was asked to consider making the role permanent and, after thinking briefly, said, "Why not?"
Koskinen doesn't serve alongside a president or mayor anymore, but last month he was with a governor. He joined George Pataki to dedicate New York City's new lighted soccer field at Pier 40.
Bisnow publishes the Bisnow on Business e-newsletters, including "CIO Weekly," which feature breezy interviews with leaders in a variety of fields. Free subscriptions are available at www.bisnow.com.