E-gov leadership program to expand

NDU's e-government program

A National Defense University (NDU) graduate-level program designed to draw in government managers and churn out e-government leaders has entered its second year and has plans to expand.

NDU officials have reaffirmed their commitment to the coursework with about 150 students now enrolled in the university's E-government Leadership Certificate Program at its Information Resources Management (IRM) College.

"We are more and more convinced that it was the right thing to do to start this program," said Elizabeth McDaniel, IRM's dean of faculty and academic programs. "People are understanding that e-government is here to stay; that it's not just the passion of one president or administration."

Such a rosy future seems less certain to some in the information technology community following the departure of Mark Forman, the champion of the Bush administration's 24 e-government initiatives. Forman left the Office of Management and Budget last month to take a private-sector job.

But McDaniel and others, including Forman's successor, Karen Evans, believe the momentum will not wane. We are "affirmed by the movement that has been made," McDaniel said. "We all [still] expect the government to operate as efficiently as Amazon.com" Inc.

IRM began offering the program in September 2002, when the e-government buzz was high. The college wanted to equip students with the skills they need to serve as effective leaders in the Digital Age. It is "a different kind of leadership, focusing across government," she said.

Identifying those skills, or competencies, spawned an ongoing conversation.

To start, faculty members generated a list of potential competencies and turned it over to a group of top IT players, with representatives from academia, industry, government and nonprofit organizations. Thirty of those people attended luncheons to further discuss what the program should teach.

IRM then revised and developed a curriculum emphasizing such competencies as policy, planning and organization, change management and enterprise integration.

In some cases, it overlaps with the chief information officer certification, but the two programs are distinct, McDaniel said. While the latter is "primarily for people in CIO's offices, e-gov is much broader, [for] people with programs or functional responsibilities across boundaries."

Because of these parallels, Judith Oxman, chief of the network services and operations contracting division at the Defense Information Systems Agency, earned her e-gov certificate in just five months, making her the program's first graduate in April.

"I learned that I still don't know enough," Oxman said. "And [that] e-government is more far-reaching than we tend to believe. It was something good for me, something good for the organization. I can see the linkages I didn't necessarily see before."

Oxman is not alone. Defense and civilian agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, are dispatching students to IRM. "Some people [come] with responsibility for 'e' in their title. Others are sent by their managers," McDaniel said.

IRM officials are now looking to partner with state and local agencies — whose employees may attend classes on a space-available basis — because e-government requires working beyond federal borders. They also intend to re-evaluate the program's curriculum, possibly in January.

"The difficulty is to give people choices where we think it's all important," McDaniel said. The faculty might combine some courses and would consider adding hot topics, such as project management — a problem area identified by Forman before his exit, she said.

IT insiders say the program remains relevant by tackling a concept that can overwhelm newcomers with its revolutionary aspect.

"If I'm not going to pave the cow path on e-government, then the scope of what I'm doing expands exponentially," said consultant Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. "It truly becomes transformational, taking a customer-focused view of the world."

Oxman, for one, did not deal much in e-government before she attended the program, but she still saw value in it.

"There is such a strong focus on e-government," she said. "The more we can figure out how to make use of that, the better off we are. And the better I can make use of it, the better manager I will be."

School officials hope that that philosophy will win them new students. "We expect many more at the next graduation in December," McDaniel said. "We built the program knowing e-government is a current challenge and it's something we're all having to do. In five years, [the program] may not be important because everything will be 'e.' But how do we get to that point?"

Lisagor is a freelance writer based in Chicago.

***

An e-government curriculum

Award of the E-government Leadership Certificate requires completion of eight intensive courses (five days in residence or eight to 12 weeks in a distributed learning format). Seven courses must be selected from specified competency categories, and the eighth may be selected from two remaining categories.

The competency categories are:

* Policy.

* Planning and organization.

* Change management.

* Architecture and enterprise integration.

* Financial resources.

* Performance management.

* Security and privacy.

* Human capital.

* Information and knowledge resources.

The program is free for Defense Department employees but costs other federal workers $995 per class, an increase from 2002 tuition.

Source: National Defense University

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