Evans: E-gov more than automation

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — In her first public comments since being named to replace e-government chief Mark Forman, Karen Evans said Thursday that e-government is not just about office automation.

In fact, she said, e-government is about providing better services to the public and using technology to make life better for citizens. It is about evaluating how a dirty bomb might impact a community or the impact an electrical blackout has as it sweeps across the Northeast, said Evans, who replaces Forman as administrator of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of E-Government and Information Technology.

"IT is the enabler. ... It's the glue that will hold all that together," Evans told the annual Interagency Resources Management Conference in Cambridge, Md.

Evans said she is being challenged to continue the track record set by Forman, the federal government's first e-gov executive who developed 24 interagency initiatives and pushed the federal government to carry out a mandate for the electronic age.

Although her experience is strictly in government, unlike Forman who came from industry, she said she intends to develop partnerships with the private sector and "reach across the table to industry."

"I do not consider myself an IT czar," Evans said. "I'm not a tyrant. ... I'm not a ruler. I'm Karen Evans, mother of two, wife of Randy. I live in West Virginia. ... I do IT."

Evans' appointment was lauded by industry and government officials. Ira Hobbs, co-chairman of the CIO Council's Workforce and Human Capital for IT Committee, said Evans and Forman have worked closely together on the Bush administration's e-government initiatives.

"Karen and Mark were almost symbiotic in their relationship," Hobbs said. "It is almost like a natural extension."

Hobbs said it is good to have Evans step into that role because it means the initiatives can maintain their momentum.

"Mark set a strong foundation, a very fast pace," he said. "That's always difficult to come behind. It's like we didn't stop the train to let Mark off, and we've got a capable engineer to keep the train moving."

Evans, who has been a management analyst at the Agriculture Department and head of the IT shop at the Office of Justice Programs, was widely seen as the frontrunner for the job ever since Forman announced his resignation last month to take a job in the private sector.

Evans is vice chairwoman of the CIO Council and takes over the post during a money crunch. Although Forman repeatedly tried to get $45 million for an e-government fund, Congress only appropriated $5 million in fiscal 2003.

The Senate has slashed the fund to $1 million for fiscal 2004, and congressional negotiators are expected to try to increase the money for crossagency e-government initiatives later this month.

But Norm Lorentz, the OMB's chief technology officer, who has been the acting e-government chief, said OMB will have to do a better job communicating with Congress exactly how much money is needed to develop the e-government initiatives.

For fiscal 2004, agencies will be asked to contribute, but he said the administration would have to work harder to get more money in fiscal 2005.

"We're not going to rest on our laurels," he said. "We're going to have to use the tools at our disposal."

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