2006 Power Players

Compiling a list of powerful people in any business is never easy because it is, by its nature, subjective.

In Federal Computer Week’s annual Federal List issue, we look at the organizations that are influential in the government information technology community. In this issue, our Power Players list highlights influential people. Many of them are influential partly because of the positions they hold. But often such people hold those positions because of the influence they have. But no one is on the list solely because of the position he or she holds.

In addition to the 12 people listed here, more Power Players are featured in the magazine’s Technology, Business, Management and Policy sections.

These rankings are subjective. Agree? Disagree? Let us know why…and who we might have missed. Send your comments to powerplayers@fcw.com.

10. Paul Denett
Position: Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy
Tenure: Sworn into office Sept. 28
What he has done:
Most of Paul Denett’s power lies in his position and his potential. Although Denett has been the Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s administrator for only a few weeks, many people have great hope — partially because he is not David Safavian. The former OFPP administrator resigned days before police arrested him on charges related to the Jack Abramoff investigation. That backdrop does not diminish Denett’s distinguished résumé, which features significant procurement posts in government and industry. Given the tumultuous tenures of recent OFPP administrators, Denett should provide some fresh insights.

Challenges ahead: Government procurement has had a rough few years. Although unrelated to his OFPP post and work, Safavian’s arrest has provided political fodder. Other high-profile problems related to Hurricane Katrina relief contracting have been difficult. And the congressional leadership may change hands in November. If the House goes to the Democrats, longtime procurement reform proponent Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) would lose his seat as chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. That could change the procurement landscape and make Denett’s job much more interesting.

FCW power forecast: Unknown but high potential

9. Renny DiPentima
Position: President and chief executive officer of SRA International
Tenure: Joined SRA International in 1995
What he has done:
What hasn’t Renny DiPentima done? After a career in public service, DiPentima has been successful in the private sector. A fierce competitor, many experts now consider him to be a sage who is interested in improving the government’s business processes. Because he has seen the world from both sides, he can often explain issues from different perspectives. In addition, DiPentima has been able to provide a home for many retiring feds, giving them an opportunity to use their knowledge of government and sharpen their business acumen.

Challenges ahead: The coming year promises to be difficult for everyone in the government information technology market. DiPentima must find a way to continue SRA’s growth. Although the government IT business is rapidly evolving, many experts say SRA is in a good position to weather the storms. The insightful DiPentima could steer SRA toward new achievements.

FCW power forecast: Bumpy but continued success

8. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
Position: Senator
Tenure: Elected in 1994
What he has done:
Tom Coburn burst on the government IT scene this year. He was one of the sponsors of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which — with help from bloggers — President Bush signed into law. The act requires the government to create an easy-to-use Web site that will allow citizens to track the recipients of all contracts and grants. As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security Subcommittee, Coburn has been vocal on other government management issues.

Challenges ahead: Government IT management issues don’t typically generate a lot of buzz. How many people in Oklahoma are going to vote for a candidate because people can now search government contracts?

FCW power forecast: Undetermined

7. Larry Allen and Olga Grkavac
Positions: Executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement and an executive vice president of the Information Technology Association of America, respectively
What they have done:
Larry Allen and Olga Grkavac will likely object to their names being on this list, let alone sharing a single line. But they are powerful forces in this community. They usually operate behind the scenes, although the press often quotes them. They are powerful representatives for their constituents.

Challenges ahead: Allen and Grkavac face many difficulties, including a potential congressional shake-up, the recommendations of the Acquisition Advisory Panel and a possible shrinkage of procurement reforms.

FCW power forecast: Continued strength

6. Retired Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose
Position: Associate director of national intelligence and chief information officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Tenure: Appointed in December 2005
What he has done:
Dale Meyerrose has one of the most unenviable tasks in government: Get the country’s disparate intelligence organizations to work together as a cohesive unit. Meyerrose said he believes that even though he and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence face challenges, they have an opportunity to rethink just about everything. He tells audiences that the United States has the best intelligence organizations in the world. The task at hand is to meld those organizations’ work. Meyerrose is serious yet jovial, open-minded yet firm in his belief in protecting secrets. He talks seriously about IT management issues. He said he would not have accepted the position of associate director of national intelligence and chief information officer if the CIO did not report to the agency’s leader. He said the CIO’s job is to help the agency accomplish its mission.

Challenges ahead: Meyerrose must find a way to promote cooperative intelligence. In many ways, his challenges resemble those faced by Scott Charbo, the Homeland Security Department’s CIO. But unlike Charbo, Meyerrose works in the background, outside the public spotlight. That can be a help and a hindrance. Meyerrose said he knows he has a set amount of time to accomplish his goals. As a presidential appointee, his tenure ends when a new administration takes office in January 2009. He said he will likely end his government career then.

FCW power forecast: Growing

5. Lurita Doan
Position: Administrator of the General Services Administration
Tenure: Sworn into office in May
What she has done:
When Lurita Doan became administrator of the General Services Administration, the agency was on the verge of implosion. After wallowing for years in a leadership vacuum, GSA has struggled to remain relevant in an age when government organizations have multiple buying options. When Doan took the post, she promised that she would make GSA the government’s pre-eminent contracting shop. She immediately breathed new life into the organization. Doan chose the widely respected Jim Williams to be commissioner of the new Federal Acquisition Service, and she halted the buyouts that were demoralizing employees. And Doan has added some spice to the position. But she also has a growing reputation for being highly opinionated.

Challenges ahead: If GSA wants to be the government’s premier contracting shop, it must do more than seek to take over other agencies’ contract vehicles. It will only be successful when it focuses on customer service. Doan has helped put GSA back on the stage. Now she must convince agencies that GSA is the government’s one-stop contracting shop instead of berating them when they look at other options.

FCW power forecast: Unsettled

4. David Wennergren
Position: Navy Department CIO and vice chairman of the CIO Council
Tenure: Named CIO in December 2002
What he has done:
When we asked people for their views on David Wennergren, several people called him endearing. They went on to explain that he garners so much loyalty that he is one of the most influential leaders in government. He is always seeking new and better ways of doing things. An example: He hosts something akin to a Navy IT book club, in which IT employees are assigned books to read. Afterward, they meet with the author to discuss implications of the book’s ideas for the Navy. Beyond his leadership role at the Navy, Wennergren serves as vice chairman of the CIO Council. Few people are more passionate about IT and good government than he is.

Challenges ahead: Wennergren faces the challenges of all CIOs: doing more with less, ensuring the CIO has a seat at the table, sharing information, implementing Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 and maintaining the CIO Council as a vibrant organization.

FCW power forecast: Smooth sailing

3. David Walker
Position: Comptroller General of the United States
Tenure: Started serving his 15-year term in November 1998
What he has done:
David Walker has one of the best jobs in government: a post in which he gets 15 years to institute change. Walker takes that responsibility seriously and has worked to make the Government Accountability Office a model of organizational management. As he has pushed pay-for-performance in the agency, he has not won everyone’s support. But he has stayed focused on GAO’s mission, which is to help improve the government’s performance and ensure accountability. He has also been outspoken on workforce issues, urging the government to look for new ways to manage employees.

Challenges ahead: One of the most difficult challenges for those who do good work is deciding what to do next. GAO will face such challenges. The agency could be busy with many new investigations, especially if either the House or Senate changes leadership.

FCW power forecast: Strong

2. Karen Evans
Position: Administrator of e-government and information technology for the Office of Management and Budget
Tenure: Named to the post in September 2003
What she has done:
Anybody in this post — the person serves as the de facto federal CIO — was going to make the Power Players list. Karen Evans is not responsible for a large budget. But in the Bush administration, the Office of Management and Budget’s role has evolved into that of the government’s chief operating officer. During her tenure, Evans has focused on implementing ideas and getting work done.

Challenges ahead: As the Bush administration heads into the final stretch, the focus will turn away from the current administration and its initiatives as agencies begin to look at what might be coming down the road with a new administration. Evans already faces some significant challenges. The lines-of-business initiatives are proving to be a difficult sell, even with OMB’s full force behind them. So the big issue, many observers say, is how OMB will remain a vibrant IT leader in the final years of the administration.

FCW power forecast: Strong

1. Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)
Positions: Chairman and minority leader, respectively, of the House Government Reform Committee
Tenure: Elected in 1995 and 1975, respectively
What they have done:
Tom Davis has been the main proponent of IT on Capitol Hill, authoring major legislation, holding hearings and demonstrating a keen understanding of the underlying issues. Henry Waxman has a different outlook that emphasizes greater regulation. With the potential of a party leadership change in the House, Davis and Waxman could switch seats.

Challenges ahead: With gridlock increasingly the norm on Capitol Hill, a party change isn’t likely to mean a tsunami-scale change in the way government does business. But conventional wisdom holds that Waxman will ask for more hearings — can there be more hearings than there are now? And he will be more aggressive about enforcing procurement rules. For example, earlier this year Waxman introduced the Clean Contracting Act, which he said would “end the abusive contracting practices that have been rampant under the Bush administration and promote greater transparency and accountability in federal contracting.” Regardless of the election results, it will still be a challenge to get such a bill signed into law.

FCW power forecast: Check back Nov. 8

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