Exec exodus

Put away the bubbly and brush up the resume.

Less than two weeks into

the new year, more senior government technology chiefs joined the ranks

of those quitting government for work in the private sector. And circumstances

virtually assure that this trickle of departures will swell into a steady

stream.

Higher pay on the outside, red tape on the inside, marketable skills

and even the Year 2000 victory played a part in the departures. The coming

change of administrations is sure to add to the exodus.

"I think a lot of technologists may have postponed career moves until

they got their organizations over the Y2K bug," said Bruce McConnell, who

confirmed Jan. 13 that he will not return to the Office of Management and

Budget when the International Y2K Coordination Center he heads shuts down

in March. After 15 years in government under three presidents and a leadership

role in averting a government computer date disaster, McConnell said he

will seek work in private industry.

Marv Langston, the Pentagon's deputy chief information officer, earlier

this month announced he will leave the Defense Department at the end of

January to work at Salus Media, a Santa Barbara, Calif., World Wide Web

start-up company. Langston said he is "anxious to apply my DOD background"

to industry.

Word of Langston's departure was followed by the news that John Hamre,

deputy secretary of Defense, is resigning to head the Center for Strategic

and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

At the Defense Logistics Agency, CIO Carla von Bernewitz is leaving.

She had planned to stay in government for five years, but stayed for a sixth

to shepherd the agency through the Year 2000 rollover. She will be an information

solutions executive for Electronic Data Systems Corp.

Anne Reed, CIO at the Agriculture Department, will leave next month for

a private-sector career. "For me, it was a personal decision that I need

to shift my focus for a lot of different reasons," she said. Had it not

been for Year 2000 bug worries, "I probably would have considered leaving

six or eight months ago."

Norm Lorentz, former chief technology officer at the U.S. Postal Service,

left the agency early this month to work for earthweb.com as its CTO.

For senior government information technology managers, the lure of the

private sector can be irresistible.

"It's the frenzied marketplace we're in," said Charles Self, an assistant

commissioner at the Federal Technology Service. Fast-growing technology

companies need top-notch IT workers and are willing to pay well to get them.

In addition to higher pay, the private sector also offers more privacy,

said John Okay, a former information resources chief at the USDA and now

a consultant. "In government, you're always in a fish bowl." Congress, OMB

and the political leaders of departments "are looking over your shoulder,"

he said.

In the past five years, a large number of IT executives have parlayed

marketable skills into private-sector jobs, said Renny DiPentima, president

of SRA International Inc.'s government sector and a former deputy commissioner

for systems at the Social Security Administration.

"Systems integrators recognize that these folks add value in understanding

the nature of the business, the kind of issues that they need to address,

and the agency and the customer they serve," he said.

SRA has hired several high-level federal IT managers, most recently

Mary Ellen Condon, the Justice Department's former director of the agency's

information management and security staff.

Von Bernewitz said the government needs to become a more attractive

employer. More liberal use of telecommuting might help, and so would cutting

bureaucracy.

"You can't decide today that something is a good idea and move on it"

in government, she said. Tasks as simple as acquiring office supplies that

take minutes in the private sector sometimes can take days in government,

she said. "If we're going to compete with industry, we've got to do better."

High-tech companies "have a whole different culture. It breeds innovation.

It's a dynamic environment" that attracts a generation of Internet-savvy

workers, Self said. "We're missing that."

***

Fed Migration

Bruce McConnell, director of the International Y2K Cooperation Center. Undecided

where he will work.

Marv Langston, deputy CIO at the Defense Department. Will work for Salus

Media.

Anne Reed, CIO at the Agriculture Department. Is in negotiations for a job

in the private sector.

Norm Lorentz, chief technology officer at the Postal Service. Is working for earthweb.com.

Carla von Bernewitz, CIO at the Defense Logistics Agency. Will work for Electronic Data Systems Corp.

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