Public Sector Partner of the Year (co-winner): Greg Rothwell

Greg Rothwell

Zaid Hamid

Greg Rothwell is managing one of the largest federal IT procurements ever ? up to $45 billion in task orders over seven years ? but he's not particularly fond of tinkering with computers and gadgets in his spare time.

"I'm no geek," Rothwell said jokingly. "You should see me operate my cell phone."

Nonetheless, IT contractors are warmly welcoming Rothwell's Eagle (Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge solutions) contract, an IT procurement vehicle for the Homeland Security Department. DHS will solicit proposals soon.

A year in the making, Eagle is the largest acquisition project that Rothwell has initiated thus far as chief procurement officer of DHS' $11 billion procurement shop, the largest nonmilitary procurement operation in the federal government. Eagle and its accompanying $3 billion First Source deal aim to consolidate most of the department's IT needs.

The initiative is viewed widely as one of Rothwell's major achievements in applying innovation and leadership to federal purchasing. For his efforts, Rothwell was honored as one of two Public Sector Partners of the Year in the 2005 Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards. He shared the award with Joann Kansier of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Created in March 2003, DHS united 22 federal agencies, including the Coast Guard and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Rothwell, who joined DHS in July 2003, inherited seven procurement offices and created an eighth. He has hired additional staff and initiated many new programs, including strategic sourcing, commodities councils and task forces to advise on strategy. His office also is coordinating with the Pentagon's EMall online procurement program. To reach out to contractors, he created the DHS "Open for Business" Web site.

Rothwell has shown he can make tough decisions: In July 2004, he canceled the $5 billion Spirit (Security Planning and Integrated Resources for Information Technology) IT procurement for the Coast Guard because it no longer met departmental strategic goals.

"Greg Rothwell really does honor the procurement profession," said Robert Welch, a partner at Acquisition Solutions Inc., a consulting firm in Oakton, Va. "Procurement in many organizations is a clerical function. Greg Rothwell has elevated it at DHS to the boardroom, where it is recognized as a strategic asset."

A veteran of 10 government procurement shops, including several defense agencies and 10 years at the Internal Revenue Service, Rothwell said collaboration, open communications and customer-focused relationships are hallmarks of his management style. To develop best practices for Eagle, he consulted at length with other federal agencies, including the Commerce and Transportation departments, Health and Human Services and IRS, as well as with the private sector.

"It was my idea to have draft solicitations, so we can get comment from the private sector before it is final," he said. "It started from back in the 1980s. I've always wanted there to be full and open communication."

Rothwell said he is motivated by the strong sense of mission at DHS.

"The mission is so interesting and so critical. You feel you are part of something," he said. "People are extremely dedicated. There are former admirals, generals and judges, and there is a unity of purpose. But we're all still getting to know one another as well."

Although DHS is a young agency, Rothwell said he is pleased with its procurement progress.

"It took the Defense Department 50 years. We're only in our third year. Are we still standing up? We're pretty far along, but we're still clearly ? I don't like the expression growing pains ? but after three years, with a change of leadership and managing 180,000 people daily, we're going from infancy to adolescence to maturity."

Besides, he said, the aches and pains of managing a youthful department are all relative.

"I worked for the IRS, which is 200 years old, and that was a pain, too," Rothwell said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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