Presidential mandate

The single-most challenging job in IT has to be the CTO, office of management and budget (OMB), executive office of the president. Appointed by President George W. Bush, Norman Lorentz is at the head of 24 egovernment initiatives. In an interview with InfoWorld Editor in Chief Michael Vizard and CTO Media Executive Editor Eve Epstein, Lorentz – a member of InfoWorld’s CTO Advisory Council – talks about the priorities he has set for the U.S. federal government.

InfoWorld: What are your goals? What is your mission?

Lorentz: The mission is the president’s mission. So one of his key initiatives is to enhance e-government, and that has taken the form of the first 24 initiatives that have been identified out of an activity that was called Quicksilver. And there were about 900 in total activities that were going on at a requirement stage that would fall into a mantle of e-government, and that was distilled … down to 24.

InfoWorld: There are 24 initiatives now, and these are the e-gov initiatives. Are they all commercial initiatives?

Lorentz: There are four categories … government-to-government, government-to-citizen, government-to-business, and internal efficiency and effectiveness. And most of those initiatives actually support the other four of the president’s areas of focus, which is human capital management, as well as competitive sourcing, so the other four are supported by the initiatives. In the g-to-g area, most of the initiatives are around establishing processes to better manage the human capital of government. I can tell you, it took 90 days for the government to figure out I had previous government service. Ninety days. That’s an embarrassment. … The good news about those processes is a lot of them have been served on the Internet. A lot of them are very robust, very crosscutting, so we have enterprise capabilities that we can bring to play.

InfoWorld: What kind of a budget do you have?

Lorentz: There isn’t a specific budget carved out right now because [for] each one of those initiatives there are already redundant efforts under way in government. So literally, we’re going in and doing the requirements for the initiatives, and we’re looking to see if there’s any one of the existing activities under way that’s quote-unquote an 80 percent solution, internal benchmark kind of situation. The current budget for 2002 for IT spending in government total, with the latest supplement, is (US)$48 billion. In ’03 it’s $52 billion, of which $18 billion is new initiatives and new developments. I think it’s safe to say there is plenty of money. It’s just a matter of determining what the citizen wants and making sure that happens.

InfoWorld: Most IT guys can’t get their arms around a single company. How will you put your arms around what is effectively 2,000 companies when you look at all the elements of government?

Lorentz: I am not an operational owner of technology. This CTO position is an appointed position. It’s a position that basically works across the operational owners, which are the CIOs and the CIO council. The reason why this position was put into OMB is because this position leverages the budgetary function in OMB in order to ensure the effective technologies and architecture are put in place in order to support the 24 initiatives. The citizens are really, really clear on what they want. Basically, the Internet has completely spoiled the citizenry of this country. From my standpoint I think that’s wonderful because they have absolutely no patience with having to do it eight times, 24 times, whatever. They want it how they want it, where they want it, when they want it. They think government should be able to do the same thing. So one of the key issues is to document and effectively understand what the citizen wants and then be absolutely unreasonable about getting it. My job is to connect the dots between those requirements and the enabling technology and if necessary use the budgetary capability to do that.


Norman Lorentz, U.S. government

* Title: CTO

* Age: 54

* Biggest success: Implementation of Customer Perfect management system at the U.S. Postal Service and the successful implementation of its Y2K program

* Key challenge: Enabling cross-agency leadership, both business and technical, for the president’s 24 e-gov initiatives

* Favorite escape: Annual trip to Cancun