A key industry ally departs

Rep. Tom Davis will leave void in Congress

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) has long been considered
a friend to federal contractors and one
of a small number in Congress ? possibly the
only one ? who fully understands the procurement
process.

When Davis recently announced his intention
not to seek re-election at the end of his
current term, the procurement community
reacted with regret and concern for the
future.

"There is no one right now who is able to
step up and fill his shoes," said Olga Grkavac,
executive vice president for the public sector
at the Information Technology Association of
America. "His background was so unique in
that he was from an IT company, and he had
been chairman of the Fairfax [County, Va.,
Board of Supervisors], giving him experience
in procurement at the state and local level."

In Congress, Davis was chairman of the
House Government Reform Committee from
2003 until Democrats took control in 2007.
Relegated to ranking member, Davis continued
to champion procurement issues.

His key legislative proposals included the
Services Acquisition Reform Act and the
Acquisition Systems Improvement Act. Many
of the provisions in SARA passed in 2003,
and Davis reintroduced those that failed,
along with some new provisions, in the 2004
ASIA legislation.

Davis briefly considered running for the
Senate, giving industry a wake-up call that
he would not be their ally in the House forever,
Grkavac said. Losing the committee
chairmanship during the shift of party control
further diminished his influence, she
said. "He remained a power player, but he
would be the first to tell you there's a difference
between being a chairman of the committee
and ranking minority member," she
said.

"I think his departure means that the Hill
will have one less person who really understands
our world. That will be a loss," said
Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting. "I
can't think of anybody else on the Hill who is
as focused on the federal technology space as
Davis."

In an interview with Washington
Technology's sister publication Federal
Computer Week, Davis said Rep. Darrell Issa
(R-Calif.) could be the new procurement and
acquisition leader in Congress.

"Contractors will, unquestionably, lose an
important voice with Davis' retirement," said
Larry Allen, president of the Coalition for
Government Procurement (CGP). "He understands
contracting, from both the industry
and government perspectives."

Contractors will have to try to make other
members of Congress understand their concerns
with the depth that Davis has, which
Allen called a "good-sized education project."
CGP, anticipating Davis' departure, has
already begun reaching out to other members
of Congress, Allen said, but much remains to
be done.

"No one has invested the time to get to the
issues that he has and his mastery of the
nitty-gritty will be hard to match," Allen said.
"That type of knowledge is not gained in one
hearing, or even a handful, but by constant
engagement with those in and out of government
who make the acquisition system
work."

Michael Hardy (mhardy@1105govinfo.com) is an
associate editor at Washington Technology.

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