Editorial: Choose Burton, choose soon

Let's not beat around the bush: Robert Burton, associate administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, should be the new OFPP administrator. And the sooner it happens, the better it is for everyone.

Burton's boss, David Safavian, resigned last month before he was arrested on corruption charges stemming from his days as the General Services Administration's chief of staff.

This unexpected turn of events could prove to be a double-whammy for the procurement community. For starters, as one acquisition expert said last week, charges of ethics violations against the government's top procurement official invite even more congressional oversight and give new fodder to critics who want to roll back reform efforts.

Many reform initiatives hinge on giving some slack to contracting officials so they can exercise good judgment and embrace innovation. And that slack could be quickly lost.

Worse yet, the OFPP administrator should be the one leading the effort to strike the right balance of flexibility and accountability. Having lost its champion, the procurement workforce is more vulnerable than ever to individuals with well-intentioned but ill-conceived ideas for solving problems they don't fully understand.

President Bush could avert such problems by appointing Burton as Safavian's replacement. Burton, who was named associate administrator several years ago, has won the respect of many people on Capitol Hill for his knowledge of federal procurement issues. With his experience and reputation, Burton could quickly restore some stability and credibility to OFPP.

Burton also would provide continuity when it comes to developing and enforcing policies in areas such as outsourcing, small-business contracting and emergency procurements. Continuity is a must because those and other issues remain in flux, and only three years remain until the next presidential election. It would be difficult for an outside appointee to master the material in time to have any meaningful impact.

Clearly, between natural disasters and Supreme Court vacancies, Congress and Bush administration officials are not likely to make the OFPP job their first priority. But then again, picking Burton as OFPP administrator would appear to be one of the easier decisions they could make.

— John S. Monroe

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • Social network, census

    5 predictions for federal IT in 2017

    As the Trump team takes control, here's what the tech community can expect.

  • Rep. Gerald Connolly

    Connolly warns on workforce changes

    The ranking member of the House Oversight Committee's Government Operations panel warns that Congress will look to legislate changes to the federal workforce.

  • President Donald J. Trump delivers his inaugural address

    How will Trump lead on tech?

    The businessman turned reality star turned U.S. president clearly has mastered Twitter, but what will his administration mean for broader technology issues?

  • Login.gov moving ahead

    The bid to establish a single login for accessing government services is moving again on the last full day of the Obama presidency.

  • Shutterstock image (by Jirsak): customer care, relationship management, and leadership concept.

    Obama wraps up security clearance reforms

    In a last-minute executive order, President Obama institutes structural reforms to the security clearance process designed to create a more unified system across government agencies.

  • Shutterstock image: breached lock.

    What cyber can learn from counterterrorism

    The U.S. has to look at its experience in developing post-9/11 counterterrorism policies to inform efforts to formalize cybersecurity policies, says a senior official.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group