Federal CTO to boost e-gov

The Bush administration sent a message last week that it is serious about its cross-agency e-government initiatives when it formally announced the appointment of the first federal chief technology officer.

Norman Lorentz, a former U.S. Postal Service CTO, began work this month at the Office of Management and Budget in the new post. His primary responsibility will be to provide the technological know-how to carry out the 24 e-government initiatives OMB has identified as the models for e-government and support the Office of Homeland Security's technology needs.

Lorentz will report to Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for information technology and e-government, who oversees the e-government initiatives released by the Bush administration in October. The projects are intended to open an era of cross-agency cooperation, improve services to the public and eliminate redundant systems. OMB recently increased the number of initiatives from 23 to 24 when it added a project that will provide a common government payroll system.

Lorentz said in an interview with reporters Jan. 18 that he views his role as strictly a support function, providing technological assistance to the managing partners in charge of each of the 24 e-government projects, which require systems that are interoperable and share a single enterprise architecture. "As chief technology officer, I own none of the technology," he said. "The technology is owned by the managing partners [who] develop the plan, arrive at the outcome, and I support them by making sure the right technologies are available."

Lorentz will lead multiple teams to identify and develop emerging technologies to support e-government and homeland security initiatives. Those teams will be made up of private-sector contractors and agency employees, all of whom will be paid by the agency customer.

"We're going to ensure that they get the right technology," he said.

By naming a CTO, OMB officials are saying, "We're going to put resources, and we're going to put a key person on achieving this idea," said Alan Balutis, executive director and chief operating officer of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils.

OMB's CTO strategy is similar to the General Services Administration's approach when it created a CTO position in December 2000. "We did it specifically to make sure we devoted more resources and produced better results," said Michael Carleton, GSA's chief information officer.

The GSA CTO position raises the visibility of enterprise architecture and IT security policy decisions, but the CTO also supports the IT operations' employees who are struggling because "the demands of keeping the infrastructure up and running day-to-day often crowd out the time to look for emerging technologies," Carleton said.

Lorentz also fills a gap in the e-government agenda by providing a voice on technology matters that is independent of the managers involved in the e-government initiatives, said Bruce McConnell, former chief of information policy and technology at OMB.

"It increases the likelihood that there will be innovative solutions that are not tied to the old way of doing business," he said.

The initiatives' managing partners will closely work with Lorentz but will not report to him, and all of the policy decisions will be made by the managing partners to reach the performance goals outlined in each initiative's business plan, Lorentz said.

The President's Management Council, made up of the top management officials from every agency, approved those business plans and will determine if the initiatives meet the goals and timelines outlined in the plans. The managing partners "are my customers," Lorentz said. "They're going to be held accountable for specific business outcomes, and I am responsible for helping them reach those."

The technology teams will have access to all of the information OMB holds on what systems and technologies are in place throughout the government.

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Norman Lorentz

Age: 54

Born in: Silver Spring, Md.

Education: Master's degree in business administration from Arizona State University; bachelor's degree in computer science and sociology from Regis University in Denver.

Current position: Federal chief technology officer at the Office of Management and Budget, where he will identify and coordinate the technology supporting the 24 e-government initiatives and the Office of Homeland Security.

Previous positions: Vice president and CTO, EarthWeb Inc. (now Dice Inc.), 2000-2001; CTO, U.S. Postal Service, 1998-1999; vice president of quality, USPS, 1994-1998.

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