Mark Forman gets his dream job
Mark Forman gets his dream job<@VM>Shifting power<@VM>Shaking things up<@VM>Seeking consensus<@VM>Making a vision reality<@VM>What's in it for contractors?<@VM>E-Government in the works
- By Gail Repsher Emery
- Jan 04, 2002
Mark Forman - After spending most of his career streamlining and reforming government, he is tapped by President Bush to do just that as the administration's e-gov czar. Is he up to the task?
"The one thing I think people would like to see more from Mark is the ability to articulate in layman's terms what his vision is. ? It's important, because people have to understand the vision and how to get there." | John Sindelar, deputy associate administrator of the Office of Governmentwide Policy at the General Services Administration
On Aug. 9, 80 federal employees began an intense, heady process of defining projects that would use technology to improve citizen services. On Oct. 3, less than two months later, the President's Management Council approved 23 projects meant to improve the way agencies work with citizens, businesses, state and local governments and each other.
Now 250 federal employees are at work on the initiatives, which include a portal for grants, online access to loans and enabling secure transactions between citizens and government. The projects will be finished in 18 to 24 months.
The Quicksilver task force, participants said, was pushed by a smart, inclusive, driven man: Mark Forman, the Bush administration's point person for e-government.
Forman, a veteran of both government and the information technology industry, in June was named associate director for information technology and e-government. In his newly created position in the Office of Management and Budget, Forman, 42, is leading the charge on one of President Bush's five management reform objectives: making government more responsive to citizens.
Forman has focused on making government more efficient throughout his career, from the Senate to IBM Corp. to the Executive Office of the President. He has an uncanny ability to see the big picture as well as the small details of IT implementation, said John Marshall, chief information officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Forman and Marshall worked together on the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs in the mid-1990s and at IBM.
Paul Brubaker, president of e-government solutions at Commerce One Inc., called Forman's appointment and OMB's new focus on e-government "a watershed event."
"For the first time, OMB has taken not just an interest where people are making speeches, they are actually engaged in helping government with defining the principles of e-government, picking some specific examples and having them led by OMB," he said.
Forman's ability to focus on the task showed Sept. 11, when he held a conference call with task force leaders to prepare for the presentation of e-government projects to the President's Management Council, a group of agency deputy secretaries who would later trim the list from 33 to 23.
Earlier that day, terrorists had commandeered airplanes full of people into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The nation was reeling. Most federal workers left their desks ? and their work ? early, seeking family and friends. Forman headed to his Bethesda, Md., home with colleague John Sindelar, where they called other team members and worked until 6 p.m.
"His vision, and his tenacity in sticking to that vision, is extremely strong," said Sindelar, deputy associate administrator of the Office of Governmentwide Policy at the General Services Administration.The information technology community got a strong supporter in Forman, but those who thought he would usher in an era of unfettered IT budgets were quickly disappointed. On June 27, his third day on the job, Forman told government and industry executives in Washington that, if anything, the agencies' IT budgets were too high.
"Forty-four billion dollars is too much," he said, referring to the amount the government was expected to spend on IT in 2001.
Announcing what has since become a familiar theme, Forman said the Bush administration would rein in government spending on "fad portals" and other unnecessary and duplicative technology projects.
Government would reap few gains, he warned, if each agency continued building its own unique search engines and applications that become "islands of automation."
Since then, Forman has softened his stance, and since Sept. 11, has said that IT budgets may have to increase to improve security and counter terrorist attacks. But he hasn't backed away from his position that the government has too many agency-specific systems.
Of the federal government's 478 lines of business, the Quicksilver task force found that each one is performed by an average of 19 agencies. Forman argues that agencies should combine resources to accomplish tasks together, cutting redundant IT investments.
Forman envisions that as agencies work together to simplify and unify their processes, they will create a seamless government that won't require citizens to know which agency provides the service they want.
By working together, agencies will be able to do more with less, and as a result, government will save taxpayer dollars while becoming more efficient and effective.
The 23 e-gov initiatives will save at least $1 billion in redundant federal IT investments and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal staff resources, Forman said. State and local governments and private businesses also will save time and money, because it will be easier to fulfill their reporting requirements to the federal government.
"When I talk about unify, I'm really focused at getting us to team across government, across the agencies. And that means we've got to integrate operations and infrastructure," Forman told hundreds of attendees at a federal conference on public key infrastructure Nov. 29.
"We're buying the same infrastructure many times over, and that's going to change," he said. "When we talk about simplify, we have to do it in a way that makes it simpler for citizens and businesses to get served."
Although Forman has worked hard to get his message out, the concepts he discusses are complex and abstract, and sometimes his audience finds it difficult to translate Forman's words ? dispersed silos, islands of automation, transformational processes and leverage of technology ? to their work lives.
"The one thing I think people would like to see more from Mark is the ability to articulate in layman's terms what his vision is," Sindelar said. "Some folks are struggling with that. They know this man knows what he's talking about, they know he's very intelligent, but what was it he was trying to get across to me? What does it mean to me?
It's important, because people have to understand the vision and how to get there."
Most e-government projects originated in one agency and were designed for that agency. Forman's initiatives build upon 23 ongoing projects, expanding them to include, on average, six agencies. That may mean that one agency will have to share some of its IT dollars or systems with other agencies.
In the end, a project begun at one agency ultimately might be administered by another, said Sindelar, who acknowledged this could create conflicts among the agencies.
"Hopefully, as we sit down at the table, [another agency] can take some of my investment and resources, and we can use part of someone else's resources, and we all come out winners," he said.
One of the 23 initiatives, for example, will expand a Small Business Administration portal, BusinessLaw.gov, to include agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
To gain the cooperation of the newcomers, SBA official James Van Wert said he must ensure the portal showcases the other agencies' responsibilities and capabilities.
"Otherwise, it is not going to work," said Van Wert, a member of the Quicksilver task force and the SBA's senior adviser for policy planning.
Forman, however, knows not everyone has converted to his way of thinking.
"There are a good pack of folks in the [Senior Executive Service] that are fearful, quite frankly, because we are shifting the power. And they are right. They have something to be worried about," he said.
"So long as people believe that information is power, and information hoarding is the way to get budgets, and money is power in Washington, they are going to be concerned," Forman said. "What we're basically saying in the President's Management Agenda is that service to the citizen, or accountability and results for the citizen, are what matters. That's a totally different way of doing business."
"The guy has an energy level unlike anybody I've seen. He's as sharp at midnight as he is at 10 in the morning. I don't know many people who can pull that off." | Paul Brubaker, president of e-government solutions at Commerce One Inc.
It comes as no surprise to those who know Forman that he's interested in shaking things up. His investigations into agency duplication go back to his days on Capitol Hill, but consolidation was more dicey back then.
"We were maybe looking to consolidate organizations, but politically you run into so many obstacles," Marshall said. "But now, you can consolidate through IT, and the organizations will take care of themselves in the long run."
IBM executive Todd Ramsey said that while many people get frustrated or overwhelmed trying to change government, Forman sees it as an opportunity. At IBM, Forman helped government officials figure out how to accelerate e-government and make it work without big budgets or active senior leadership.
"He's one of the best I've seen at figuring out how governments work and developing creative approaches that use the existing structures in government to build consensus and management frameworks for implementing and reinforcing change over time," said Ramsey, general manager of global government industry for the Armonk, N.Y., company.
Most recently, at Unisys Corp. of Blue Bell, Pa., Forman was responsible for developing the architecture of e-business solutions and leading their development to meet federal, state and local government needs around the world. Lee Cooper, vice president of sales for the federal group, worked with Forman in identifying opportunities, marketing and closing deals.
"He's clearly a visionary," Cooper said, "and that vision provided the direction in which we pursued the development of the e-business solutions we are going to market with today."
Earlier, Forman was the senior professional staff member on the Republican staff of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, where he helped craft and enact legislation aimed at making government work more effectively, including the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Information Technology Management Reform Act and the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act. He was senior adviser to the Senate on procurement, IT, outsourcing and other management issues.
Early in his career, Forman was an economist for the Army and an evaluator at the General Accounting Office.
On Capitol Hill, Forman worked late into the night with Brubaker, then a Republican staffer on the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee on oversight of government management.
"The guy has an energy level unlike anybody I've seen. He's as sharp at midnight as he is at 10 in the morning. I don't know many people who can pull that off," said Brubaker, who went on to serve as deputy CIO in the Defense Department before moving to Commerce One of Pleasanton, Calif.
Cooper wasn't surprised when Forman returned to government.
"He believes very strongly in making the government accessible to the citizens and sees e-government as the vehicle for making that happen," Cooper said. "He believes that he has the vision and leadership skills to help us implement that vision, and I think he probably does."Forman spends about half his time on the e-government initiatives, 40 percent of his time on information security and homeland security, and 10 percent on keeping current on emerging technologies. His responsibilities include consulting with agencies on IT implementation and oversight of the $45 billion the federal government spends annually on IT.
By all accounts, Forman has worked tirelessly to accomplish a lot in a short time. He has incorporated the e-government initiatives into the budget process and has required that agencies submit business cases for the initiatives that detail the teamwork, schedules and costs involved, as well as the payoffs, including benefits to citizens.
Forman has been accessible, good at communicating what he wants to do and why, and then doing it, said Alan Balutis, executive director and chief operating officer of the Industry Advisory Council and the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils.
To promote the president's vision of a citizen-centric government and his technological approach to getting there, Forman has appeared at numerous meetings and conferences, where industry and government managers often buttonhole him until other appointments pull him away.
He has sought input from both industry and government managers through the Industry Advisory Council and the federal CIO Council, among other groups. Federal CIOs will help oversee implementation of the e-government projects.
Ira Hobbs, Agriculture Department CIO, said Forman has been sensitive to CIO Council members' concerns about the feasibility of the e-government initiatives, how agencies will cooperate and how the projects will be paid for.
"We all recognize these things have to be funded and are going to take a lot of effort," he said. "In a lot of cases they are asking for our best people. No one wants to give up their best folks, but I think it's being handled positively."
Some government managers have already seen positive results.
"It has been extremely rewarding to see how everyone is participating," said Sybil Phillips, director of student credit management for the Education Department's Office of Student Financial Assistance. SFA's online loan processing application will be expanded to include seven other agencies.
The object is to make it easier for citizens to find and obtain loans, cut back on businesses' reporting requirements, make it easier for state and federal agencies to work together and improve internal efficiency, said Harry Feely, principal deputy CIO for the SFA.
"We all got together in a room, talked about what we were doing right now and agreed who would do what. We're not worried about the money; we're worried about service to the customers," he said.
Forman recently cut back on the three to four speeches he was making each week, but still makes time for 7:30 a.m. breakfast meetings and lunch appointments. He tries to get at least six hours of sleep a night and make time for "daddy things," like playing baseball with his boys.
At a Dec. 12 interview in his office in the Old Executive Office Building, Forman looked tired but was enthusiastic and on-message. His tight schedule meant the meeting was brief, but Forman called this reporter back at 6:10 p.m. as he drove home to his wife Kallie and sons Nathaniel, 8, and Gabriel, 5. He talked until he pulled into his driveway at 6:30 p.m.
Forman has made great progress in his six months on the job, government and industry observers said, but the lack of new money and the administration's approach to e-government still worry some.
Congress gave a new e-government fund just $5 million in the 2002 budget, $15 million less than President Bush requested.
Phil Kiviat, a Potomac, Md., consultant to IT companies and the government on IT policy and solutions, said federal CIOs have told Forman they can't deliver all he's asking for.
"They said we can't do it that fast, or we don't have the money," Kiviat said, but added, "It's probably just jockeying for position."
John Spotila, chief operating officer of GTSI Corp. in Chantilly, Va., cautions that while OMB involvement helps focus White House attention on e-government, it also carries the risk that agency managers will feel imposed upon and react negatively. Spotila was administrator of the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Clinton administration.
Van Wert said he's not worried about having enough money to carry out OMB's e-government initiatives, but some managers are concerned, and that could affect their cooperation.
"[They] are worried about [Forman's] office attacking their [budget] base. OMB has said they're going to do that. It might affect people's level of jaundice ? whether the approach will work," he said.
Forman, however, said the agencies have more than enough money for the projects, despite the scarcity of new funds.
The task force "found that there are dozens of initiatives that have redundant funding. ... So is there enough money for these 23 initiatives? Yes, by several times over," he said. "I dare say we may have too much money. The real question is can we get agencies to work together. I think we can."
Still, many observers wonder if Forman has the power to make his vision a reality. Some in Congress and industry wanted a federal CIO, a position of greater stature than an OMB associate director. The administration maintains that the deputy director for management in OMB is the federal CIO, although the position has not been filled.
"I think Mark does have political backing at the highest levels of the administration, but if he doesn't end up with enough money, [progress is] probably doing to be a bit uneven for a while," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America in Arlington, Va.
Forman contends he has all the clout he needs.
"To be successful in my role, I need authority and accountability," he said. "I have been given ... authority over $45 billion in IT spending. I also have the accountability for driving productivity growth and achieving the president's e-government agenda."
Brubaker is confident Forman will take action if things don't go his way.
"He will work within the system and get cooperation, but if he is being slow-rolled, he will recognize that quickly and take steps by calling in the big guns to quiet his opposition. I know he's doing it," he said.
Watching closely ? and ready to take action ? are members of Congress who, before Forman's appointment, introduced legislation that would have created a federal CIO.
Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said the jury is still out on whether the administration's approach is working.
"We could be a lot more efficient [with IT], that's why we were interested in a federal CIO," he said, "[but] I think we should give Mark Forman a chance to operate. ... Some agencies may not like what they're doing, but from our perspective it's going well."
The House Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy, which Davis chairs, likely will hold a hearing early this year to assess the administration's progress on e-government.
Forman and his staff are negotiating on an e-government bill sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said Leslie Phillips, spokeswoman for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
"From Sen. Lieberman's perspective, it's not clear he'll have the power to do what he wants to do. The senator thinks it would be easier for Mr. Forman to do his job if he had the powers that would be conferred upon him by Sen. Lieberman's legislation: statutory responsibility and a [bigger] e-gov fund," she said.
Also following Forman's progress are industry executives. Many supported the federal CIO bills, but took a wait-and-see approach when Forman was appointed.
"We have a lot of faith and confidence in him personally, and we want to be supportive of what he's trying to do. Within a year, we'll find out whether he has the support in the administration, Congress and the agencies to pull this off," Miller said.
Miller praised Forman's ability to move quickly on the e-government initiatives, saying the events of Sept. 11 would likely have caused others to get distracted and let the projects slip for months.
"The fact that he doesn't have the title of CIO may not matter," Miller said. zzStaff Writer Gail Repsher Emery can be reached at email@example.com.
Many government information technology vendors have already worked on the precursors to the 23 electronic government initiatives, so they have been able to quickly identify where their expertise fits in.
Unisys Corp., for example, has provided applications support for e-authentication to the General Services Administration, which is heading up the initiative on e-authentication and digital signatures.
A task force at Unisys has evaluated and matched the company's capabilities to this and other initiatives, as well as its interest level. Now, staff members are discussing the projects with agency managers to determine which projects the company should pursue, said
Lee Cooper, vice president of sales for the federal group.
But this isn't just a game for big players. Many state and local governments ? which have more regular contact with most citizens ? have embraced e-government faster than the federal government, so the 23 initiatives may present a new entrée to companies selling state and local e-government solutions, said Steve Charles, executive vice president of immixGroup Inc., a McLean, Va., consulting firm that helps technology companies expand their government business.
"It's an opportunity for IT companies that have a particular expertise that may not have been part of the inner circle," Charles said.
For example, EzGov Inc. of Atlanta, which started out providing permitting and licensing systems to state and local governments and went on to develop an online income tax filing system in the United Kingdom, recently formed a federal government practice.
The company's FlexFoundation platform for providing e-government solutions is a collection of integrated components built on open, standards-based technology, and can be customized or implemented out of the box. It fits into Mark Forman's vision of buying systems once, and using them many times across government, said Robbie Kamerschen, EzGov vice president of legal and government affairs. Forman, associate director for information technology and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget, is the Bush administration's point man on e-government.
Vendors foresee many new business opportunities should the e-government initiatives be successfully implemented. And while it's too soon to tell just how much the government will spend, industry and government officials anticipate that the private sector will play a substantial role in the transformation process.
"Clearly, the initiatives will leverage e-business tools and techniques, such as middleware, workflow and business process integration," Forman said, adding that the projects would take maximum advantage of commercial off-the-shelf software and hardware.
"I anticipate industry providing significant services help, ranging from best practices to systems integration," he said.The Office of Management and Budget's electronic government initiatives are trying to give a little something to everyone.
Whether it is citizens, businesses, other agencies or internal operations, the initiatives cover a broad range of services. There are 23 projects divided into five categories. Two other projects have had business cases developed for them, but OMB has not yet decided how to proceed. Most of the projects cut across several agencies; each initiative has a lead agency, known as a managing partner, overseeing its development.Government to citizenRecreation One-StopManaging partner:
This initiative will build upon Recreation.Gov. The site will provide a one-stop, searchable database of recreation areas nationwide, with online mapping and integrated transactions, such as campground reservations and the purchase of passes, maps and other products.Eligibility Assistance OnlineManaging partner:
This is a portal for citizens to access government programs and services. The site will focus on high-need demographic groups. Services on the site will include a prescreening device. The site will provide direct, integrated access to agency-specific sites and transactions.Online Access for LoansManaging partner:
This initiative will allow citizens and businesses to find loan programs and apply for them online. Users also will be able to create or modify an online repayment schedule or examine their loan account transaction history.USA ServiceManaging partner:
General Services Administration
This project will use customer relationship management tools to allow citizens to obtain services online and improve government responsiveness. Citizens will be able to personalize the combination of services they receive across multiple programs and agencies. The site will create a privacy protected environment in which citizens will interact with the government.EZ Tax FilingManaging partner:
Internal Revenue Service
This site will make it easier for businesses and the public to file taxes online.Government to businessOnline Rulemaking ManagementManaging partner:
An existing electronic docket system will be expanded to serve as a governmentwide system. Other agency docket systems will use it by creating storefronts consistent with the statutory requirements for each agency under the Administrative Procedures Act. Comments will be organized using knowledge management tools.Simplified and Unified Tax and Wage ReportingManaging partner:
The objectives of this project include decreasing the number of tax-related forms that an employer must file, providing timely and accurate tax information to employers, increasing the availability of electronic tax filing and modeling simplified federal and state tax employment laws.Federal Asset SalesManaging partner:
Customers will be able to find assets they are interested in regardless of the agency that holds those assets. They will be able to bid and make purchases electronically for financial, real and disposable assets.International Trade Process StreamliningManaging partner:
This initiative will create a single, customer-focused site to help new and existing exporters through the export process. The 20 export-related Web sites will be organized and accessed through a single entry point.One-Stop Business Compliance InformationManaging partner:
Small Business Administration
Located at www.BusinessLaw.gov
, this site provides information on laws and regulations, helps users understand this information, and offers wizards and tutorials to help users determine if rules apply to them and how to proceed. Government to governmentGeospatial Information One-StopManaging partner:
The GIS One-Stop will provide access to the federal government's spatial-data assets in a single location. Agencies will make their planned future spatial-data activities available to state and local governments to help promote collaboration and reduce duplicative efforts.Electronic GrantsManaging partner:
Health and Human Services
This initiative will create a portal for grant recipients and grant-making agencies that will streamline, simplify and provide an electronic option for grants management across the government. This effort will include the 26 federal grant-making agencies' work to implement the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act of 1999. The law is aimed at improving federal financial assistance programs, simplifying the application and reporting requirements and improving services to the public.Disaster Assistance and Crisis ResponseManaging partner:
Federal Emergency Management Agency
This project is for a public, one-stop portal containing information from applicable public and private organizations involved in disaster preparedness, response and recovery.Wireless Networks for Emergency CommunicationsManaging partner:
This initiative will provide standards to enable interoperability communications systems between federal, state and local officials.Internal efficiency and effectivenesseTrainingManaging partner:
Office of Personnel Management
This project will provide a repository of government-owned courseware available to federal, state and local governments. The government also hopes the site fosters the development of communities of practice. This initiative supports the president's Human Capital initiative.Enterprise Case ManagementManaging partner:
This initiative is a multiphased project to electronically centralize Department of Justice litigation case information used and prepared by the government entities, private organizations and individuals. The information is used for a variety of investigative purposes.Recruiting One-StopManaging partner:
This project will modify USAJOBS, the government's online employment portal, to create an automated resource for federal government information and career opportunities. It will use automated resume and assessment tools to route resumes, assess candidates and streamline the hiring process as well as provide up-to-the-minute application status for job seekers.Enterprise HRManaging partner:
This initiative will electronically integrate personnel records across government. It will also reduce the delays involved in security clearance processing. eTravelManaging partner:
This project will include automating, streamlining and consolidating the government's travel processes.Integrated AcquisitionManaging partner:
Agencies will begin sharing common data elements to enable other agencies to make better informed procurement, logistical, payment and performance assessment decisions. It will also allow agencies to make maximum use of electronic markets approaches.eRecords ManagementManaging partner:
National Archives and Records Administration
This initiative will establish uniform procedures, requirements and standards for electronic record keeping by agencies in converting paper-based records to electronic files.Initiatives that address barriers to e-government successeAuthentication and Digital SignatureManaging partner:
The project would establish a federal public key infrastructure with which federal employees and the federal community would interoperate and allow the public a secure method of communication with government.Federal ArchitectureManaging partner:
This initiative will map government processes by line of business. It will develop information, data and application interface standards to reduce redundancies and improve operations.Business case onlyConsolidated Health InformaticsManaging Partner:
The initiative would create a simplified, unified system for sharing and reusing medical records among government agencies and private health care providers and insurers. It would provide a single mechanism for making records accessible.eVitalManaging partner:
Social Security Administration
This project would expand the online exchange of vital records among federal agencies and state governments.