A good hire

Thomas R. Temin

In naming Energy Department CIO Karen Evans to the e-government job at the Office of Management and Budget, the Bush administration has made an important statement. Namely, that it values federal career service'at least a little.

Evans, who next month will replace Mark Forman as OMB's administrator for e-government and IT, is indeed a career fed. She started out as a GS-2. She describes herself as 'a mother of two, wife of Randy,' who also does IT after commuting two hours to Washington from her home in West Virginia.

Nearly every department-level CIO slot is filled by a political appointee. In her post at Energy, Evans was one of a handful of exceptions.

These days, career people are often discouraged from being seen or heard in public. This stems from the command-and-control mentality, and secrecy, common among Bush administration appointees.

Experienced career managers complain of being told they can't speak at this conference, attend that meeting or talk about such-and-such initiative.

The OMB deputy director for management, Clay Johnson III, faced hostile questioning at the recent IRMCO conference after proclaiming that federal workers are thrilled with the President's Management Agenda. Johnson was visibly annoyed by demands for evidence of this and by questions about the proposed deferral of raises.

So the elevation of a well-liked, competent career official to the highly visible OMB slot is welcome news.

Evans' new job is no sinecure. She is not there merely to handle the details of projects begun under Forman. E-government, enterprise architectures, interagency cooperation on money and systems are far from finished or institutionalized efforts.

Forman accomplished much, but the timing of his departure was excellent. Like a race through treacherous and muddy terrain, the fast early going devolves into a difficult slog, and this is where Evans enters.

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