Online Extra on Mark Forman's departure: Filling his shoes

As the Office of Management and Budget considers candidates to replace Mark Forman, one thing is clear: the next administrator for e-government and IT will inherit a well-defined, prestigious position.

That was not the case two years ago when Forman, who left government on Friday to join a software start-up in California, arrived at OMB.

"It was a difficult position to fill at that time because there was no office of e-government, and it was unclear what the position was going to do," said Dave McClure, vice president for e-government for the Council for Excellence in Government, a Washington nonprofit group. "The landscape is different now. The position is established both in statute and by how Mark Forman did his job. The expectations for his successor will be extremely high."

White House officials refused to comment on the names of potential successors, but others in industry and government said OMB has whittled down the list to four people, including well-known industry and government executives.

In the interim, OMB deputy director for management Clay Johnson has named chief technology officer Norm Lorentz as acting administrator. And many within industry and government believe Lorentz is among those on the short list for the job.

Johnson said only that the administration wants "to get the best person in the position as soon as possible."

Whoever that best person is will have a tough act to follow, industry and government officials said.

"Mark laid out a vision for e-government and instituted IT practices and set goals for the agencies to meet," said Stephen Galvan, the Small Business Administration's CIO and a former portfolio manager for one of OMB's four e-government project areas. "Mark's successor will have to continue to implement the objectives of these initiatives."

The consensus among many observers is that the next e-gov chief must possess many of the same characteristics as Forman: knowledge of how the government works, understanding of Congress and experience in industry.

"If you look at Mark's accomplishments, much of it is due to his understanding of both the government and private sector," said McClure, a former IT management auditor at the General Accounting Office. "There is a tremendous advantage to having someone with that kind of background because the person plays such a huge change management role with all the entities."

Others suggested that Forman's successor must be more of a hands-on manager and less of a visionary.

Jim Kane, president and chief executive officer of Federal Sources Inc. of Chantilly, Va., said the Forman's replacement must build on the foundation now in place.

"The person must be a strong project manager and have a strong track record in implementing change," Kane said.

John Spotila, a former administrator in OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and now the president and chief operating officer of GTSI Corp. of Chantilly, Va., warned against someone who doesn't know how government works.

Many times an official with a strong reputation in industry will come to government but fail to get the job done because of frustration that things don't happen fast enough, he said.

"Much of the progress at this level comes from supplying the vision and working collaboratively with a lot people with varied interests to make change happen," Spotilla said.

One shortfall of OMB's e-government strategy, according to a government official who asked not to be named, has been the lack of coherent communication with agencies and Congress. The official said the most important attribute of a new administrator will be the ability to clearly lay out a strategy and relay it in a concise, unambiguous manner.

Jason Miller writes for Government Computer News

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