OMB to focus on hiring new project managers, security in 2004

The Bush administration's proposed $59 billion information technology budget for 2004 will enable the Office of Management and Budget to hire more managers for electronic government projects and revamp training programs for existing managers, an OMB official told an industry group in Santa Clara, Calif. on Tuesday.

As a large group of federal employees reach retirement age, OMB will recruit technology-savvy managers who can aid efforts to modernize and consolidate existing computer systems, said Mark Forman, OMB's associate director of IT and e-government.

"We're looking for people who can give us solutions," he said. "Now we have too many people with an invested interest in the status quo."

IT projects will need managers who can motivate employees and build on recent progress in overcoming a cultural resistance to change, Forman said. Successful managers will also have to formulate plans to address long range IT concerns and will need to concentrate on simplifying and unifying computer systems in key areas, such as financial management and human resources.

In addition, IT managers will have to sharpen their skills in making good business cases for project funding and in avoiding cost overruns, Forman said. They will need to find ways to save money by taking advantage of buying large quantities, standardizing equipment, using existing technology to its full capacity and eliminating redundant systems, he added.

The way IT officials spend the 2004 budget will also reflect the recent national focus on homeland security, Forman said. Agencies will need to work on securing existing computer networks against hackers before tackling new systems, Forman said.

To help in this effort, 8 percent of IT expenditures in 2004 will go toward security, up about 3 percent from this year, said James Kane, president and chief executive officer of Federal Sources Inc., a market research firm in McLean, Va.

Enhanced security, coupled with more energetic managers who have solid business skills, will make the federal IT market even more attractive to private companies, like those in Silicon Valley, Kane predicted. Recently the government market has looked good to companies frustrated with the sluggish economy, but the attraction should continue to grow even in an economic upswing, because the federal market is growing and relatively stable, Kane said. Usually, companies also do not need to make a large up-front investment to enter the federal market, he added.

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