Davis exit will leave void in Congress

The exit of Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) from Congress could be a significant loss to the federal acquisition community, industry leaders say. Davis, who announced his decision to not seek another term, brought a depth of understanding of procurement issues when he was elected in 1994.

"There is no one right now that is able to step up and fill his shoes," said Olga Grkavac, the 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 Board of Supervisors], giving him experience in procurement at the state and local level."

Davis served on the board from 1980 to 1994, and was its chairman from 1991 until his election to Congress.

In Congress, he was chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform from 1998 until Democrats took control of the House in 2007. Demoted to ranking minority member, Davis continued to champion procurement issues.

Davis briefly considered running for the Senate in 2006, giving industry a wake-up call that he would not be their ally in the House forever, Grkavac said. Losing the chairmanship during the shifting of party control diminished his influence further, 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.

"Contractors will, unquestionably, lose an important voice with Davis' retirement," said Larry Allen, president at the Coalition for Government Procurement. "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 said will be a "good-sized education project."

The coalition, anticipating Davis departure, has already begun reaching out to other members of Congress, he 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 that make the acquisition system work."

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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