Forman leaving for money

The man responsible for the Bush administration's e-government initiatives says he's leaving government to get paid more.

Many observers have said agencies are having trouble attracting and retaining top technology talent because federal salaries are too low, and the impending departure of Mark Forman, administrator of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of E-Government, supports that claim.

"I came from a much higher salary," Forman said, referring to previous jobs in private industry.

Forman, whose last day is today, spoke to reporters Thursday during a conference call. He said his departure was neither motivated by fights with Congress over the e-government fund, nor resistance from agencies who wanted tighter control of their information technology budgets.

But Forman, who will join a California start-up that he declined to identify, said government pay isn't enough. "I am out of supplemental resources" after two years working for government, he said.

Washington, D.C.-based federal executives at Forman's level make $142,500 a year. Although he also worked in government years ago, Forman's jobs immediately before OMB were vice-president positions at IBM Global Services and Unisys.

OMB and the Office of Personnel Management recognize they must deal with the problem of finding and keeping people with the management skills needed for positions such as chief information officer. Forman expects there will be a "growing focus" on that area in the fiscal 2005 budget cycle.

But in the meantime, he thinks his two years at OMB changed how government thinks about technology investment. "We now have tools that we didn't have before, to say, as a government, 'Is this a good investment?'" he said.

And he believes that the management agenda has had a measurable impact on how agencies work together. "I'm very happy in what we've been able to accomplish in the cross-agency arena," he said.

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