Editorial: Hope or despair?

Many experts suspect that reasons unrelated to their qualifications — including midterm election politics — could delay any or all of the candidates’ confirmations

By its nature, spring is a hopeful time of year, and a number of nominations by President Bush have made it a hopeful time for agencies, too. Yet the looming midterm elections could dampen any optimism that feds and industry may have.

Last week on this page, we suggested that the president’s nomination of Lurita Alexis Doan to be administrator of the General Services Administration represented a positive step. Two more nominations should provide us with even more hope — Paul Denett for administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and Rob Portman for director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Denett is well-qualified for the OFPP job. Unlike David Safavian, the last person to hold that post, Denett has a long career in procurement. Most recently, he served as vice president of contracting programs at ESI International. But he has also worked at the Interior and Treasury departments.

By most accounts, Denett is well-respected and knowledgeable. And, like Doan, he steps into an important job at an important time. Denett faces some significant challenges. Certainly near the top of the list is working with Doan to settle the tumult at GSA, which affects government procurement overall.

He will also face questions about the Bush administration’s competitive sourcing initiative and questions about whether there are too many multiple-award contracts.

The most significant challenge he will face, however, is one of tone. He must provide procurement executives with enough cover so that they can try new and innovative ways of doing business without worrying that they will be hauled before a congressional committee — or worse. This “get ’em” atmosphere has resulted in a risk-averse environment, which isn’t good for agencies, government or citizens.

Portman’s nomination also bodes well for those who believe in good government. Portman, a six-term Republican congressman from Ohio, knows how government works. He helped lead the restructuring of the Internal Revenue Service and the creation of the Homeland Security Department, for example.

Many experts suspect that reasons unrelated to their qualifications — including midterm election politics — could delay any or all of the candidates’ confirmations.

Important issues are on the agenda that require leadership. We hope lawmakers do their due diligence but keep these confirmations out of the political crossfire.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.

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