Will Daniels' legacy stick?

The federal information technology community is waiting anxiously to see who will replace Mitchell Daniels Jr., whom many people credit with lending tremendous authority to the Bush administration's efforts to reform federal IT management during his two-year tenure as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Past OMB directors have often been referred to as "budget" directors, but Daniels has been a champion for management issues, beginning with the President's Management Agenda, which spotlights such issues as e-government, workforce management, procurement reform and performance management.

Under Daniels' leadership, OMB has linked its two oversight functions, seeking to enforce good management as part of the budget process. He will leave his position June 4 and is reportedly interested in running for governor of Indiana.

"There are executives that get it and executives that don't get it when it comes to e-business, and Mitch gets it and he brought that from Eli Lilly [and Co.]," said Mark Forman, administrator of OMB's Office of E-Government and IT.

Forman has been the frontman for many of these initiatives, but he would have had a much more difficult task without Daniels' backing, IT experts say.

Daniels' personal involvement in the Bush administration's E-Government Strategy influenced the 24 initiatives and the CIO Council's architecture work, said Brand Niemann, chairman of the council's XML Web Services Working Group. Daniels, for example, helped push forward a cross-government initiative to develop electronic forms, Niemann said.

As of last week, the administration had not announced a replacement for Daniels or an acting director, according to an OMB spokesman, leaving the agency with a leadership void. Clay Johnson, the nominee for deputy director of management, awaits Senate confirmation, and Nancy Dorn stepped down from her deputy director position last month.

Many inside and outside government, including White House chief information officer Tim Campen, expressed hope that Daniels' successor would continue to support e-government and the work that Forman is doing on the E-Government Strategy. Daniels "has been a real mainstay for the President's Management Agenda," Campen said at the biannual CIO Summit in Savannah, Ga., sponsored by FCW Media Group.

"Mitch Daniels has been a great supporter of Mark Forman's initiatives, and it has to be a concern that the next person be as big a supporter so Mark can continue to be as effective," said Roger Baker, an executive vice president at CACI International Inc. and former Commerce Department CIO.

Daniels gave Forman the authority to make many controversial decisions, such as holding back funding for redundant or poorly managed information systems and moving to governmentwide enterprise software licenses, said one IT executive who requested anonymity. Daniels' unstinting support has been critical to keeping criticism and complaints at a minimum, the executive said.

An initiative requiring agencies to file business cases for IT projects during the budget process is of particular importance now, because of tighter budgets, said Carla von Bernewitz, director of the Army Enterprise Integration Oversight Office. Daniels is leaving at a "critical time for the IT world," she said.

Bruce McConnell, president of McConnell International LLC and former chief of information policy and technology at OMB, does not anticipate diminished support for e-government in the wake of Daniels' departure. "This commitment is coming from the top, and the president will select someone who cares," he said. "Mitch has been great for management, but I think he reflects a deep commitment in the administration for it."

OMB is likely to carry forward Daniels' initiatives and philosophy, other officials said. "Mitch has done a fantastic job. He's held us accountable," said Steve Cooper, CIO at the Homeland Security Department. Cooper also worked with Daniels at Eli Lilly, an Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical firm.

Forman agreed. "He was constantly focused on results. He kept us all focused on consolidation around the citizen, to drive results that were focused on the citizen and to get rid of redundancy.... He's drilled it into me, he's drilled it into the budget and even into the agencies as well."

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