David Drabkin: A trusted voice on procurement matters

Drabkin has forged key relationships, strengthened acquisition process

David Drabkin, the No. 3 official in federal procurement, was first introduced to government contracting in 1978 while he worked as an attorney in the Army at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga.

Drabkin, now deputy chief acquisition officer at the General Services Administration, was assisting the lawyer who was in charge of  outsourcing base maintenance. It was his introduction to acquisition and all of its hot-button issues and complexities, including the controversial public-sector vs. private-sector competitions under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76.

Drabkin left his attorney position at Fort Gordon and was transferred to Germany in February 1983 to conduct post-trial reviews for the Army. However, the position was eliminated by the time he arrived.

“They said to me, ‘Welcome to Germany, you’re now a contracts lawyer,’ ” said Drabkin, who added that he was particularly tickled by the unexpected change. The post-trial reviews would have been boring, he said. Instead, “I got to do something different every day,” he said.

Drabkin said his most significant work was on the Pentagon Renovation Program as its deputy program manager. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, a woman thanked him for the renovation, which included reinforcing the building's outer walls. The improvements allowed her husband to escape after one of the hijacked airplanes crashed into the Pentagon.

Over the years, Drabkin has become one of the most influential procurement policy officials in the federal government.

Drabkin is a member of numerous councils and committees in government and participates in several government/industry partnerships. In particular, he’s one of four members of the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council, which sets policy. In addition to Drabkin, the council's members are Shay Assad, director of Defense procurement and acquisition policy at the Defense Department; William McNally, NASA's assistant administrator for procurement; and Lesley Field, acting administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Those four people have a lot of control over the direction that acquisition policy takes.

In recognition of his experience and expertise, Drabkin received the Public Sector Partner award Nov. 4 at the 7th Annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards. The awards are given by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, the Professional Services Council and Washington Technology.

Drabkin “has long been recognized as one of the leading voices in government for policies and practices that protect the government’s interests, enhance communication with the private sector, and both drive and focus on performance,” said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council and a Washington Technology columnist.

He received the award “for his history of commitment to smart business practices and building meaningful partnerships between the public and private sectors,” Soloway said.

While stationed in different locations in Europe, Drabkin’s father would regularly send him letters. In the envelopes, Drabkin would find the Washington Post’s employment ads. Drabkin's father didn’t send the ads because he didn’t like Drabkin working for the government. The elder Drabkin said he wanted his son closer to home. Drabkin eventually came back to the continental United States, but he never left procurement.

Elliott Branch, who was chairman of the Multiple Award Schedule Advisory Panel, said Drabkin has a broad and deep knowledge of government acquisition, and he can look at issues from a governmentwide perspective.

“And he has a sense of humor,” Branch said. “One need only look at the transcript of the panel’s meetings.”

Return to list of GovCon winners.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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