Forman: E-gov is going to continue

The modernization of government operations through better use of information technology will continue in his absence, said Mark Forman, the Bush administration's IT and e-government czar for the past two years. Forman's last day is tomorrow.

'The president really understands how technology improves the management of government. I'm very much of the belief this is going to continue,' Forman said in a conference call with reporters today.

During Forman's tenure, 25 cross-agency projects were launched, many of which have made tangible progress toward improving the efficiency of government operations. Agencies began a rigorous business case process in order to justify their IT budget requests, and new projects were undertaken, including an initiative promoting governmentwide software licensing.

Now, government is not just buying computers, it is buying a better way to operate government through IT, Forman said. 'It's exciting for me to see the transformation,' he said.

Forman said he wouldn't talk about his new private-sector venture until after he leaves OMB. He is moving to a start-up firm in California.

'The company doesn't even have a name yet,' he said.

Forman outlined his biggest accomplishments at OMB:

  • Establishing a rigorous process for evaluating IT investments
    'We now have tools that we didn't have before, that tell us if it's a good investment, likely to succeed and will improve productivity.'

  • Improving federal cybersecurity
    'We are about 50 to 60 percent secure. We didn't even know how secure or insecure we were two years ago. We are on target for 80 percent [federal system security] this year.'

  • Establishing a framework for agencies to collaborate on IT initiatives
    'I'm very happy about what we have been able to accomplish through cooperation and teamwork.'

  • Despite the fact that many of the tasks Forman undertook had not been done in the federal government before, he said he's not a visionary.

    'When I came in, we said government has got to get with what is going on in the rest of the world in e-business and e-commerce. I just saw what was going on around us and laid out a framework to get us caught up with the rest of society,' he said.

    'Obviously, there are always things you could have done better,' he added. For example, Forman and his team thought they would get good business cases for the 25 e-government initiatives, which were identified early in his tenure.

    'We found out that we didn't, and we lost five to six months. Once we got strong leadership to lock in on near- and far-term objectives, things accelerated quickly,' he said.

    Forman's team also thought that when new cross-agency e-government solutions were deployed, their work would be done. 'We learned you have to migrate [to new systems] and shut off existing [old] systems. That is most of the work for the next year,' he said.

    Forman said his successor will need to focus on continuous management of the government's information security process; identification of new opportunities for cross-agency IT investments during the budget development process; and migrating agencies to the new cross-agency systems. Another area that will need sustained attention is skills development and adequate compensation for government IT workers, he said.

    Forman said his departure is for 'strictly personal reasons.'

    'I came from a much higher salary [before joining OMB],' he explained. 'You tend to have a lifestyle. I am out of supplemental resources.'

    Asked what it would take for him to return to government, Forman replied, 'Let me replenish the coffers before I answer that. But thank you for asking.'

    Norm Lorentz, Forman's deputy since January 2002, will step in for Forman until a successor is named. Lorentz, OMB's chief technology officer 'understands security, the federal enterprise architecture and the capital planning process. I am leaving it in good hands,' Forman said.

    Gail Repsher Emery writes for Washington Technology magazine


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