Forman to Rein in Spending on IT Fads

The Bush administration is looking to rein in government spending on information technology by getting rid of "fad portals" and other unnecessary technology projects, said Mark Forman, the new federal IT chief.

Forman said that Mitchell Daniels, Office of Management and Budget director, has said too much is being spent on IT. The president has proposed spending $44.4 billion in fiscal 2001 and $44.8 billion fiscal 2002 on IT products and services.

Forman suggested the government could save money by ending the proliferation of duplicative applications among the agencies, such as the plethora of portals and search engines.

"Forty-four billion dollars is too much," said Forman, who June 25 took over as the associate director for information technology and e-government in the Office of Management and Budget. Forman spoke to government and industry leaders at a June 27 Washington conference on e-government.

Forman said the government would reap few gains if agencies continue building their own unique search engines and applications that become "islands of automation."

Although the government needs more than one portal and search engine, he said too much duplication exists. His goal is to unify the islands of automation and simplify government's business processes, he said.

Forman, who formerly worked on e-government initiatives for Unisys Corp. and IBM Corp., also said the administration will seek to outsource more government activities to the private sector.

Before Forman's appointment, some industry officials and lawmakers had recommended that the new IT chief be appointed as an OMB deputy director or even a cabinet official, so the chief could have sufficient clout to coordinate federal IT spending and enforce more cooperation among departments and agencies.

Forman, however, said he has been given sufficient authority to carry out his mission of transforming the government through IT. "The director and the president are very serious about this," he said.

OMB's June 14 press release announcing Forman's appointment to the new position said he is tasked with fulfilling the president's vision of using the Internet to create a citizen-centric government. He will direct the activities of the CIO council, which consists of federal chief information officers, and oversee $100 million in funding for e-government initiatives.

"As the leading federal e-government executive, he will be responsible for ensuring that the federal government takes maximum advantage of digital technology and best practices to improve quality, effectiveness and efficiency," the OMB statement said.

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