Buzz of the Week

Caught in the crossfire

Within minutes of March 28’s hearing featuring Lurita Doan, administrator of the General Services Administration, it was clear it was going to be contentious. One could almost hear Michael Buffer booming, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” And that they did — for about four hours.

“Americans want a government that works,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “They don’t want basic government services politicized, and they don’t want their tax dollars squandered.”

Yet undoubtedly, most people watching the hearing March 28 — it was aired live on one of the C-Span networks — had the feeling that there was something larger going on. Yes, there were important issues involving Doan: potential violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits using government agencies for political purposes; questions about a drawn-out dispute over a GSA schedule contract for Sun Microsystems; and the now infamous $20,000 no-bid contract to one of Doan’s friends.

But those issues’ importance seemed to be deflated by schoolyard slap fights that were more cartoonish than real. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), former chairman of the committee during much of the Clinton administration, appeared almost giddy that Democrats were having trouble getting straight answers to their questions. He believes he never got adequate responses.

Meanwhile, Doan’s memory did seem selective. For the January lunch, at which White House political operatives discussed the November 2006 elections and the upcoming 2008 elections, she remembered that they served cookies but didn’t remember the presentation.

Yet as one sat and listened to all the details, the whole hearing seemed, well, petty. The $20,000 no-bid contract, for example, was never awarded. And the January lunch, although almost undeniably inappropriate, was not planned or approved by Doan and came months after one election and years before another.

The hearing did touch on one important procurement issue — the role of the inspector general — but lawmakers never delved into that topic in a meaningful way, and the hearing ended up avoiding most of the critical issues that are plaguing the procurement process.

In the end, it was a fascinating drama to watch, but it left many questions unresolved.

The Buzz contenders


#2: No Sprint at the Networx finish line
It has been the buzz for weeks — when, oh when, would the first of two Networx telecommunications contracts be awarded. Everybody’s questions were answered March 29. GSA awarded Networx Universal contracts to three of the four bidders: AT&T, Qwest Government Services and MCI Communications Services, doing business as Verizon Business Services.

Noticeably absent from that list: Sprint Nextel.

Before the contracts were awarded, there was speculation that GSA might award the contracts to all bidders to avoid a potential protest. But with Sprint Nextel not making the cut, that left the community buzzing about whether there might be a protest in Networx’ future.

#3: In the SEWP
The Lurita Doan hearing and the Networx awards somehow just weren’t enough to fill a week, so the good folks at NASA awarded the SEWP contracts.

SEWP used to stand for Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement. But SEWP IV has evolved and now stands for Solutions for Enterprisewide Procurement. Alan Bechara, president of PC Mall Gov, whose GMRI division is a SEWP IV winner, said, “I have my own meaning [of the SEWP acronym]: Success Every Way Possible.”

With that new moniker, NASA awarded 45 information technology governmentwide acquisition contracts to 37 vendors, half of which are small businesses.

Contracts went to 23 small businesses, six of which are owned by service-disabled veterans.

#4: And that makes for 1,800 winners so far
FCW’s annual Federal 100 awards banquet March 26 is not only a good opportunity to catch up with more than 1,000 of your closest friends but also an opportunity to recognize 100 people who went above and beyond the call of duty last year.

And each year, FCW recognizes two people — one from government and one from industry — among the 100 winners for the prestigious Eagle winner. This year, David Wennergren and Jim Duffey were selected.

Is there anything better than a gala?

You can see photos and videos of the event on www.fcw.com/fed100.

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