Top Federal IT Exec Says He Needs More Money Than Government Can Pay

Mark Forman heads for a startup but is leaving E-government initiatives in good hands.
Mark Forman doesn't believe the administration will miss a beat in incorporating technology into the fabric of government after he steps down as the top federal IT executive on Friday. That's because the IT initiatives he formulated over the past two years have a champion in the Oval Office.

"What makes this all work? It emanates from the president, especially in our area of information technology," Forman, the first federal E-administrator, said in a teleconference Thursday. "Certain executives get it and some don't. The president really understands management, and how technology is useful in improving an organization, especially an organization like government."

Forman's successor has yet to be named. He declined comment on the future direction the Office of Management and Budget should take with E-government, saying he has complete faith in his OMB bosses, director Joshua Bolten and deputy director for management Clay Johnson, to do what's needed. OMB chief technology officer Norman Lorentz, Forman's top lieutenant, will serve as acting E-administrator until a permanent one is named.

Forman is leaving government to return to business because he says he needs to make more money than the government pays. According to OMB, Forman has an ES-6 pay grade, which equates to an annual salary of $142,500 for executive-service employees working in Washington. He once headed E-business efforts at IBM and Unisys. Forman wouldn't disclose details about his new job with a California startup, except to say it still hasn't got a name. He promised details next week.

He said one of his prime accomplishments as E-administrator was to require departments and agencies to present business cases for IT investments before receiving funding. Other achievements he cited: helping make government IT systems more secure and getting disparate departments and agencies to collaborate in developing E-government programs and common IT processes and architecture.

It took about a half-year longer than he had expected to get agencies to agree on objectives for the two dozen interagency E-government initiatives, Forman said. "Once that was done, things accelerated quickly."

Forman has numerous admirers among local, state, and federal officials, in Congress, and among business leaders, many of whom say he's a visionary who helped define how IT can be best employed to get government to operate more efficiently. Forman refused to accept the visionary label, saying he's a tactician who put together a governance structure that mirrored practices already established in the private sector. "This job wasn't about ideas," he said. "If people call this visionary in government, it's up to them. What I would say is that I took what's happening in the world around us and put in place in government."

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