Horn steps aside

Thomas R. Temin

In some sense hoisted by their own petard, Republican House leaders have been squabbling with one another over committee chairmanships. In a burst of zeal after gaining a majority in 1995, they vowed to rotate chairmanships every six years.

With dissolution of the seniority system comes uncertainty for federal program managers perpetually in the crosshairs of oversight. In the old days, you were reasonably certain who your senior partner, as it is sometimes politely put, would be.

Oversight isn't fun, but having a consistent overseer is easier to deal with'think the devil-you-know syndrome.

So it is with a bit of regret that we see Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) step aside as chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology. No more chairman-as-schoolmarm.

Never a pushover, Horn showed his prickliness most noticeably during the year 2000 conversion, when he firmly chastised agencies whose efforts didn't measure up. But he also willingly and cheerfully acknowledged agencies that showed progress.

With his letter grades, he managed to make something as arcane as federal information technology important and interesting to the public. That can only help future IT efforts.

Horn could be pedantic and windy as only a former academic can be. I remember one conference where he was the dinner speaker, scheduled to talk before dinner. By the time he finished after some 45 minutes, his impatient listeners had polished off the rolls and bottles of wine. But he was intellectually honest, telling the audience what he thought it ought to hear.

The media liked Horn in part because he was quotable and in part because he was more accessible than many of his colleagues. One meeting GCN had with him that was supposed to be two minutes in the hallway outside his office turned into a sociable hour'even as staff members stood on one leg trying to urge him back on schedule.

Luckily, Horn won't be out of the picture entirely, but he won't have the chairmanship from which he preached, browbeat and cajoled agencies into better systems performance.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

Email: [email protected]


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