WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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Dear Mr. President...

The voting is still going on as I write this, but here is a list of issues and topics to watch as the next administration unfolds. I invite your comments and feedback and story ideas. My email is nwakeman@1105govinfo.com. These are not in any particular order of importance.

1. Defense spending -- This is a huge chunk of the government's discretionary spending and its growth has been extraordinary. The cost of programs -- even programs that are delivering a lot of good capabilities such as WIN-T and Future Combat Systems -- have grown in ways that are difficult to control or predict.

Look for the next secretary of defense to look for ways to corral these programs so there is at least some visibility into their costs and results.

2. BRAC is unfunded. Thousands of jobs are being shifted, facilities are slated to close, and others to expand. Somehow an accurate price tag needs to be established and funded, otherwise BRACs benefits will not be realized.

3. Recapitalization. Equipment and systems will need to be refurbished as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, estimates are approaching $100 billion. So far, it doesn't appear in the budget. It needs to.

4. People. The number of political appointees soared during the Bush administration to more than 4,000 positions. While both parties have vowed to support a more streamlined and efficient confirmation process, a leadership void is going to exist.

5. More people. Career folks are leaving too, and the government is struggling to nuture the next generation.

6. Congress. There will continue to be a push for transparency and accountability. You can expect conflict of interest concerns to continue to be an issue. Organizational conflict of interest is pretty well understood, but Soloway and others are seeing more issues with personal conflicts of interest. How will this play out?

7. Rhetoric meets reality. Many of the Democrats in Congress have been harsh critics of contractors. My thought is -- how much longer can this go on? Yes, there will be more emphasis on accountability but it seems to me that the tone of the debate has to change. There has to be a realization that contractors are not the enemy but part of the solution. I think this change will only happen when those in charge, realize that their agendas cannot succeed without support from contractors.

When that realization will happen, is any one's guess.

8. The bailout. The financial meltdown is a big unknown. What kind of resources will it suck up and how will it change the role of government?

There are lot of other unknowns out there too. Hard choices are ahead.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 04, 2008 at 9:54 AM

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