Show Me the Money
Mark Forman is not leaving his job as administrator of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of E-Government and Information Technology because of political pressure, burnout from two years of fighting federal inertia or Washington, D.C.'s summer humidity. The reason: "I came from a much higher salary...and I am out of supplemental resources," he said in a conference call with reporters Aug. 14, his next-to-last day on the job.
The problems with attracting and retaining high-level technology and e-government officials — from agency chief information officers to Forman's position — are ones that officials at both OMB and the Office of Personnel Management recognize they must address. Such high-stress positions require management skills far beyond what was necessary in the past, and Forman expects the challenge will be a "growing focus" during the fiscal 2005 budget cycle.
He wouldn't address the issue of who will follow in his footsteps or the skills they will need, but he did say that there shouldn't be a problem if the Bush administration doesn't identify a successor before agencies submit their budget requests next month.
Norm Lorentz, OMB's chief technology officer and Forman's deputy, will be acting administrator, and "I think I'm leaving [e-government] in good hands," Forman said.
Hot or Not?
Meanwhile, the hunt is on to find a permanent replacement for Forman.
In a letter to OMB Director Josh Bolten, Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) urged the administration to make sure a qualified person who "will continue to be an effective catalyst in transforming the operations of the federal government from an IT perspective" is named.
Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and Putnam, chairman of the committee's Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census Subcommittee, said the right person is essential to making e-government a success.
Possible successors, besides Lorentz, include Carolyn Purcell, who recently left her post as CIO of Texas; Melissa Wojciak, deputy staff director for Davis' committee who played a key role in writing the E-Government Act of 2002; and Paul Brubaker, a former Defense Department deputy CIO who helped write the Clinger-Cohen Act. Energy Department CIO Karen Evans is widely seen as the leading candidate. However, Environmental Protection Agency CIO Kim Nelson and Marty Wagner, associate administrator of the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy, are also in the running.
The IT fair at the Department of Health and Human Services last week lacked one very important detail: refreshments.
Agency officials spent the whirlwind day in back-to-back 15-minute meetings with vendors, with few breaks for stretching or snacks. Although vendors and agency officials hailed the day as a success in forming partnerships, some feds were tired before the day was over.
"It's just exhausting," said Glenn Rogers, deputy CIO for the Food and Drug Administration, adding that a table with cookies and sodas, for example, might have helped keep officials going.
In and Out
Word on the street is that John Gauss, former CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs, will be taking his considerable technology skills to Science Applications International Corp.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration is vetting at least one candidate to replace Gauss, who resigned in June: Robert McFarland, former vice president of government relations for Dell Computer Corp. Under McFarland's leadership, Dell became the No. 1 supplier of computer systems to the federal government and initiated a major push into the defense market.
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