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The Worst Job In America
Fortune ^ | Monday, April 1, 2002 | Mark Roberti

Posted on 04/01/2002 2:49:05 AM PST by pt17

Norman Lorentz might just have one of the worst jobs imaginable. Named the first chief technology officer of the Office of Management and Budget last fall, he oversees the federal government's $45 billion information technology budget and coordinates 24 e-government initiatives that span all agencies. His mandate? To make the federal government fast, efficient, and responsive--in short, everything it's not.

The fix, Lorentz believes, is that government needs to be run more like a private company. (Yes, he is a Bush acolyte who refers to citizens as "consumers" and government services as "lines of business.")

First on his agenda is an IT overhaul--some federal systems date back to the Kennedy Administration. The Federal Aviation Administration, for example, still relies on some code written in assembly language, a primal method of computer coding. And the mainframe systems in the IRS are so ancient that staffers have to mail reels of tape between processing centers to share some files.

Then there's the issue of redundancy. Lorentz plans to streamline the 22,000 federal Websites, which often overlap. For instance, 31 agencies--from the Federal Emergency Management Association to Housing and Urban Development--address natural disasters. "Citizens want to deal with us once, not 25 times, eight times, or even twice," he says.

Few would argue with that point, but fixing what ails federal IT may be even harder than it sounds. The Bush Administration asked for $100 million for the e-government effort--Congress ponied up just $5 million. And the e-government task force is already meeting resistance from bureaucrats. In late February, John Sindelar, the General Services Administration's representative on the task force, remarked publicly that getting cooperation from federal agency heads on e-initiatives was like "herding cats."

The strange part is that Lorentz actually asked for the job. He was on his cellphone at Washington's National Airport when a plane hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11. He soon realized he no longer wanted to commute from his home in Bethesda, Md., to a dot-com position in New York, and that he yearned to get back into government. After spending 18 years in various tech posts at US West (now Qwest) and another four overhauling IT at the U.S. Postal Service, he was a natural fit for the newly created CTO post. Lorentz's impression of the monstrous task at hand? "I'll just say there is ample need for improvement," he says diplomatically.

That, of course, is another reason Postal Service experience comes in handy: There's no better place to learn the art of assessing daunting situations with tact.


TOPICS: Government; Technical
KEYWORDS: budget; federalgovernment; gsa; omb
22,000 federal websites? Get out the ax!
1 posted on 04/01/2002 2:49:05 AM PST by pt17
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To: pt17
How the Government selects their staff for the State Department.

Hint: People from private industry need not apply.

2 posted on 04/01/2002 2:53:20 AM PST by Rubber Ducky
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To: pt17
And the mainframe systems in the IRS are so ancient that staffers have to mail reels of tape between processing centers to share some files

The IRS has squandered over $10 billion taxpayer dollars on "Tax System Modernization" (TSM) with nothing to show for it. Now comes more calls for more money. The only result of this waste has been the destruction of a couple of forests for several million pages of "design documentation", all of which was useless. Same with the FAA. How many billions have been flushed down the drain with modernizing the Air Traffic Control System, with, again, NOTHING to show for it?

Maybe it's time to privatize some of this crap. A private company that has to return a profit to the shareholders would not put up with this garbage.

3 posted on 04/01/2002 8:16:37 AM PST by SR71A
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To: pt17
The guy with the mop in Times Square's "Show World Theater" has a worse job.
4 posted on 04/01/2002 8:23:30 AM PST by dead
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To: SR71A
Maybe it's time to privatize some of this crap. A private company that has to return a profit to the shareholders would not put up with this garbage.

The words "crap" and "garbage" are too kind for this waste. Getting this work out of the hands of the unmotivated (to be efficient) government agencies and the beltway bandits would certainly seem to be in order. How to do it is another matter.

You also have to wonder about the waste in the less visible segments of government.
5 posted on 04/01/2002 11:31:50 AM PST by pt17
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