Editorial: Not for the faint of heart

Procurement policies matter. Everyone understood that when the issue was a $500 hammer or the thousand-dollar toilet seat. But outside Washington, D.C., interest in the topic often flags when the policy wonks begin debating the subtleties of procurement laws and regulations.

This week's issue of Federal Computer Week is a reminder that anyone involved in buying and managing technology needs to pay attention to those policy wonks.

You might describe Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who graces this week's cover, as the alpha wonk. Davis has been working on technology issues for years, in business and in Congress. As chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, he is in a better position than ever to keep technology on everyone's agenda.

In a recent interview with FCW staff, Davis made clear that he intends to do just that. Topics on his agenda include security, information sharing and agency restructuring, with a focus on the General Services Administration and the U.S. Postal Service. He sees procurement reform as a vital lever for bringing about change.

Davis is not the only person who has a say on these issues, but he intends to make his presence felt in debates in the executive and legislative branches. People who thought procurement reform was a thing of the past had better think again.

But change will not happen without a fight. The share-in-savings concept is a case in point. For years, government officials have talked about the idea of asking contractors to share the upfront costs of an acquisition in exchange for a share of the accrued savings. Yet because few such deals have been arranged, the talk is mostly theoretical.

Theoretical, but certainly passionate. Angela Styles, a former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, recently published an article in The Procurement Lawyer newsletter dissecting the "myth of sharing." In the pages ahead, you will find an abridged version of her column, plus vociferous responses from two other big players in federal procurement circles — Jim Flyzik, a longtime federal official and now a consultant, and David Drabkin, GSA's deputy chief acquisition officer.

This week's magazine devotes an inordinate amount of space to procurement topics. But then again, it only shows that procurement policy does indeed matter.

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