Competitive sourcing loses champion in OMB's Styles

Angela Styles, departing administrator of OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy

Angela Styles' Sept. 15 departure from the Office of Management and Budget leaves a hole in the administration's competitive sourcing strategy, one that IT industry executives hope is filled soon.

As administrator of OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy for the past two years, Styles was responsible for the policies and regulations governing $240 billion a year in purchases by the federal government. She will be most remembered for shepherding the development of a new OMB Circular A-76, industry experts said. The circular lays out the rules for public-private competition of federal jobs.

The new rules have received a mixed greeting, and the House voted Sept. 9 to quash the rules as part of the Treasury/Transportation appropriations bill. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it includes the provision. The Senate version of the bill does not.

Over two years, Styles worked with diverse interest groups, including industry, government, unions and academia, to rewrite the circular. It was unveiled May 28, replacing a process that had not changed since 1983 and was widely viewed as too lengthy, unfair and difficult to use.

It's important that the administration replace Styles soon, said Olga Grkavac of the Information Technology Association of America.

"We don't want to lose a forceful proponent who is opposing these restrictions," said Grkavac, executive vice president of the Arlington, Va., trade group.

Styles, 36, said she would take a few months off and then return to her previous employer, the Washington law firm Miller & Chevalier, where she will be a partner. She will practice government contracts law.

Robert Burton, associate administrator of OFPP, will be acting administrator after Styles' departure, according to an OMB official.

Styles said someone else could best lead implementation of the new process for public-private competition.

"It takes a different set of skills to implement it and share best practices among the agencies. Somebody can come in with the energy to do that, the energy I don't have right now," she said.

The person who does take the job needs to have significant procurement expertise and the ability to communicate with lay and professional audiences, said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va., trade group.

"There is an awful lot yet to do with competitive sourcing, work-force issues and procurement trends that bear looking at. This person has to be as diverse in their expertise as possible," he said. "And they are going to need more resources to do it right. Angela didn't have enough resources to really get it done."

For implementing A-76, a political operative who can influence other agency leaders might be a better choice than someone who "can talk to the procurement community," said Steve Schooner, a former associate administrator for procurement law and legislation at OFPP.

One potential candidate suggested by some industry experts is Paul Brubaker, former Defense Department chief information officer. Brubaker, a partner with the Reston, Va., market research and consulting firm ICG Government, could not be reached for comment.

"Paul has experience that is similar to what Mark Forman had," Grkavac said. "He was deputy CIO at DoD, and he has private-sector experience, Hill experience and GAO experience. That is a nice balance."

 

-- Gail Repsher Emery

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