Got juice?

Thomas R. Temin

It hasn't taken long for the whispered doubts about the Office of Management and Budget's e-government initiative to set in. At cocktail parties and luncheons throughout the recent holiday season, you could hear the growing buzz of skepticism about whether OMB will pull it off.

Recall that under OMB's explicit direction, teams were assembled, scores of projects were assessed and models for governmentwide adoption were chosen. The winners were to gain the imprimatur of OMB approval and, more importantly, a chunk of a special, $20-million e-government fund.

The locomotive was rolling.

Except that the $20 million OMB thought it would have now may only be $5 million, if anything. And now the agencies are being told to cut redundancies and sort out the money among themselves [GCN, Dec. 10, 2001, Page 1].

Yeah, right. It brings to mind the old Buddy Holly song, 'That'll be the day.'

I deliberately haven't yet mentioned Mark Forman, the administration's e-government point man and orchestrator of the plan. That's because I think he's done about as good a job as anyone could under the circumstances. He's knowledgeable, likable, listens carefully to all comers and never seems to shun an opportunity to make OMB's case.

But, as Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), a vocal supporter of e-government, pointedly said of Forman recently, 'How much juice does he have when he calls up?' Translation: Not being OMB's deputy director for management, does Forman have sufficient power to create the level of interagency cooperation required?

That's not a knock on Forman, but rather on the way the job was positioned. It's too bad OMB'the administration, really'didn't add juice to the job by making Forman or somebody else the DDM. Maybe they thought having the President's Management Council in on the e-government project and budget decisions would overcome the ingrained, cultural bias against parting with one's own departmental funds. But that's unproven, and now there's a war on and deficits are looming.

If the Hill is still interested in electronic government, it should consider what a few days' worth of farm subsidies would do to juice up e-gov.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: [email protected]


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