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By Nick Wakeman

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Jack Gansler remembered for passion, leadership

With Jacques Gansler’s death coming so close on the heels of the death of President George H.W. Bush, it is very easy to draw parallels between their lives.

Like President Bush, "Jack" Gansler spent a lifetime serving a greater good and he lived with an ethos that put country first.

Gansler died Dec. 4 at home from complications of melanoma at age 84.

He is best known for his work on defense acquisition and procurement issues and how those processes can be used to serve the warfighter and make government more efficient.

From 1997-2001, he served as the third-ranking civilian at the Defense Department as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

In that position, he led efforts around research-and-development, acquisition, logistics, advanced technology, the role of the defense industry and other initiatives.

“Jack was not only one of the smartest people I ever worked with, but also the most passionate about making acquisition work better for the government and the troops in the field,” said Stan Soloway, former president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. He was Gansler’s deputy at DOD.

“He consistently challenged people and orthodoxies and, fought hard to increase the professionalizing of the acquisition corps and was insistent that better and smarter buying applied to everything from the most complex weapons system to the most basic support services,” Soloway said.

Former DynCorp CEO Paul Lombardi also described Gansler as passionate about procurement.

“He led the trend for best-value procurement during a difficult time,” Lombardi said. “He truly was a leader.”

One of his passions was the acquisition workforce and upgrading their standing and status. “That’s a legacy that continues,” Lombardi said.

Soloway said Gansler fought for more funds for workforce training and opposed arbitrary workforce reductions.

“He believed deeply that the only way to succeed was to build partnership and trust between the public and private sectors and, equally important, within the department’s own internal ecosystem,” he said.

Gansler may have left the Pentagon at the end of the Clinton Administration, but he never strayed from his passion for better procurement and better government.

“I got to know him after we both left government but he was well known for his leadership at DOD,” said Dan Chenok, executive director of the IBM Center for the Business of Government. In government, Chenok was the branch chief for information policy and technology at the Office of Management and Budget.

“He took a very strategic view of procurement. That it was much more than a back office process but a tool for agencies to meet their strategic goals,” he said.

That perspective and belief is reflected in the books and articles Gansler wrote such as The Defense Industry, Affording Defense, and Democracy’s Arsenal, Creating a 21st Century Defense Industry, and in his teaching. He was a professor at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland.

“He evangelized that you can take the art of buying and help an organization succeed,” Chenok said. “It was a different way of thinking about procurement.”

Gansler was an early advocate for many of the procurement processes that government is leaning on today to modernize their systems such as incremental development, Soloway said.

“On top of that, he was a nice guy with a dry sense of humor and a good heart,” he said.

The industry group, the Professional Services Council, offered their condolences to the Gansler family and recognized the stature he held in the market.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, colleagues, and the wide circle of PSC member company officials who worked with him," David Berteau, PSC president and CEO, said in a statement.

Gansler is survived by his wife Leah, three children, Gillian, Douglas and Christine, a son-in-law, Michael Kanell, and five grandchildren: Jenna, Vance, Samuel, William and Kaitlin.

According to Gansler’s Legacy.com obituary, a service will be held Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019 at the University of Maryland Chapel.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 10, 2018 at 9:45 AM

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