Karen Evans to become new e-gov czar

President George W. Bush plans to appoint Karen Evans, CIO at the Department of Energy and an experienced government IT professional, to become the new head of the administration’s e-government initiatives, the White House announced Wednesday.

Evans, a 20-year veteran of the government IT community, will succeed Mark Forman, who last month left the post of administrator of the Office of Electronic Government at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for better pay in the private sector.

The pending appointment of Evans is getting strong support from private-sector executives.

“In the technology arena, there are those who get it and those who get it done. Karen Evans is one of those highly valued leaders who possess both essential qualities,” said Bill Conner, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Entrust Inc. “Given her experience at the U.S. Department of Energy and leadership on the (federal) CIO Council, Karen knows firsthand what it takes to successfully execute the strategy and architecture that she played a role in developing with Mark Forman and his team.”

Prior to becoming CIO at the Energy Department, Evans served at the Department of Justice as assistant director for information services and division director for information systems management. She has also been deputy director for applications management at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Norm Lorentz, who is the government’s chief technology officer and took over Forman’s post temporarily, called Evans a “great selection” and somebody who can “accomplish the mission” of e-government. Although some had feared for the future of the e-government program after Forman’s departure, Lorentz said the quickness of the appointment shows that the administration understands the program’s importance.

Jim Kane, president and CEO of McLean, Va.-based Federal Sources Inc., a research and analysis firm focusing on the federal IT market, said Evans’ appointment could help advance the government’s IT agenda.

“Karen is the right person in the right job at the right time,” said Kane. “Mark (Forman) was the visionary, the change agent. But things are now at the stage where somebody like Karen, who has a strong operational perspective, is the right person to make things happen.”

He went on to say that having Evans in this position is “probably going to strengthen the role of the CIO.” In the early years of the Forman tenure, there was a palpable level of tension between the federal CIO Council, on which Evans served as co-chair, and the Office of Management and Budget, Kane said.

In those days, “OMB was a bit of a bystander, while the CIO Council was setting the agenda,” said Kane. “Forman, to his credit, was marching to the beat of the president’s management agenda. But (Evans’) appointment can neutralize that tension” by bringing her fellow CIOs on board with the larger e-government agenda, he said.

The administration’s quick move to find a replacement for Forman also underscores the priority of its e-government efforts, according to Kane. The timing of the appointment coincides with one of the most critical spending and budgeting times for the government. Spending in September traditionally can account for as much as 25% of the government’s overall IT budget, because agencies must begin submitting funding requests for new budgets in October and must spend any remaining IT dollars before they’re lost.