Gordon OFPP tenure marked by an open dialogue with industry

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is losing an administrator who, industry experts and other former officials say, revitalized a relationship between federal employees and contractors that had become quite suspicious.

Dan Gordon, the current OFPP administrator, was someone that government officials and industry leaders felt like they could talk to, said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. Gordon sought to flip a world that was dominated by hyperbole and rhetoric with the Myth-Busters Campaign.

“Perhaps his most important contribution was his tireless efforts to bring open, reasoned debate and discussion back to federal acquisition,” Soloway said.

“Dan was always open to hearing all perspectives and was fair in his treatment of our concerns on the myriad of issues he addressed during his tenure,” said Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president for national security and procurement policy at TechAmericaHodgkins said, adding that Gordon’s departure is a loss for the government.

Heading to law school

Gordon accepted the position of associate dean of government procurement law studies at the George Washington University. He starts his academic career on Jan. 1.

“GW Law is a world-class venue for teaching, research and writing about government contracting. I am returning to a community that I know and cherish,” Gordon said in a press release from the university.

OFPP is losing another administrator relatively soon after his confirmation, which may be an impediment to advancing policies, said Robert Burton, former deputy OFPP administrator, who spent several years in the 2000s as acting administrator. He now is a partner at the Venable law firm.

Since the late 1990s, administrators have stayed at OFPP for roughly two years. Steve Kelman was the last administrator to stay longer. He stayed from 1993 to 1997. Kelman is now a Harvard University professor.

Leaving next month, he will have been administrator for about 25 months since his confirmation in November 2009.

A result of such short terms as administrator is that the office staff is pulled away from their inherently governmental functions of working on governmentwide procurement policies that affect agencies and industry.

“Unfortunately, the news of Dan leaving is that it disrupts the office and the focus on current initiatives,” Burton said.

Gordon's initiatives

Gordon worked to rebuild the federal acquisition workforce. He gathered support to fund for more employee training, and he updated the certification standards for contracting officers. The reforms increased training standards for contracting officer's representatives and program managers, both of which are considered part of the acquisition workforce.

Gordon also pushed agencies to thinking strategically when buying commodities. He encouraged strategic sourcing and getting agencies to take advantage of the government’s size.

“We are—finally—leveraging the federal government’s purchasing power as the world’s largest customer to deliver a better value for the American taxpayers,” Jacob Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote on the OMBlog Nov. 2.

Gordon even brought attention to innovative methods to purchasing, such as electronic reverse auctions and interagency contracting.

The acquisition workforce

A key initiative was the revitalization of the acquisition workforce.

Steve Schooner, a procurement law professor at the George Washington University law school, said Gordon deserves a lot of credit for reviving the Front Line Forum, which was instituted by Kelman but had fallen away in recent years. The forum let the procurement policy leaders hear from the workers dealing daily with government purchasing.

“It's hard to quantify how important this outreach is—not just engaging with the operational community, but actually listening to the concerns and suggestions and aspirations of the people upon whom the entire process depends,” Schooner said.

He said he’s hopeful that future OFPP administrators will recognize the importance of being “the acquisition workforce’s cheerleader-in-chief.”

What the next administrator needs

As the search begins for the next administrator, the nominee needs the skills to see what needs attention and the know-how to understand the procurement world, experts say.

Burton said it’s a very technical field and not merely a management position. Decisions and policies have far-reaching affects, such as attending to the acquisition workforce and insourcing government work.

“With only two years, you don’t want to spend the first six months helping the new administrator to understand the” Federal Acquisition Regulation, he said.

About the Author

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

Reader Comments

Fri, Nov 25, 2011 Jaime Gracia Washington, DC

Dan Gordon will no doubt be missed, but it his leadership in helping shape the future best practices in federal buying that will be a significant gap to fill. We need to be talking more, not less, and ensure the “MythBusters” campaign is not another passing fad in the continued need on acquisition reform.

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