The Forman legacy

Thomas R. Temin

Now that Mark Forman has departed from his e-government berth at the Office of Management and Budget, it's fair to consider what he accomplished and what the outlook is for the Bush administration continuing the efforts he skillfully put in motion.

And skillful he was at resetting the e-government agenda and the bureaucracy's approach to planning and fielding new systems. The many catchphrases''unify and simplify' and 'buy once, use many,' for example'became common shorthand in federal IT circles.

Forman has been repeatedly compared to Steve Kelman, the Clinton administration's initial administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Kelman swept in massive procurement reform. Both officials were genuine change agents; Kelman was more the jolly warrior, Forman more the schoolmarm. But both got things done.

When it comes to federal agencies, the greatest genius or force of personality can't move a grain of sand unless the tide is with them.

Forman, like Kelman, came in when conditions were ripe for change. By 1993, the procurement system was desperately in need of reform. By 2001, e-government had stalled, and lots of projects were going nowhere. Forman and his team turned that around.

But beyond the initial Quicksilver projects come the much bigger tasks of making e-government pervasive, re-engineering systems and somehow keeping the resource-sharing approach alive.

Moreover, the team under Forman's acting successor eventually must address the many huge and troubled IT projects that fall outside of the Quicksilver umbrella. The IRS modernization comes to mind.

It's a tough task, complicated by three factors: Deficits will keep Congress tight-fisted. The senior administration is going be focused on Bush's re-election. Many key career managers are tired from two years of intensive work.

Nonetheless, Forman built a solid foundation upon which the administration and, more specifically, the next e-gov czar can build.


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