Editorial: Waxman at a crossroads

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is in a powerful position.

But Waxman now faces an important decision: Does he want to have an impact, or is he comfortable sitting outside throwing stones?

We generally do not discuss our efforts to get information. That is largely because we don’t think you care. Nor should you.

But there are instances when Federal Computer Week’s difficulties in getting information have a larger significance. Waxman has presented us with a case that demonstrates this point.

FCW reporters and editors have repeatedly requested interviews with Waxman since soon after last November’s elections. We wanted — in fact, we still want — to give him the opportunity to present his views on government information technology, management and procurement. We believe FCW readers can do their jobs more effectively if they know what is expected.

We redoubled our efforts in recent weeks because we wanted to include a Waxman interview in this issue, which features a special report on procurement.

The results were less than satisfactory. We did receive written answers to questions we sent to Waxman’s staff, but the responses provide no real insights.

You can find the responses on FCW.com’s Download at www.fcw.com/download.

We are not alone in getting the cold shoulder. With few exceptions, Waxman has not spoken at government or industry forums. His staff rarely speaks about these issues.

There are several possible reasons. One is that Waxman simply doesn’t care about the issues. Another is that it is easier to sit back and criticize what is not working rather than trying to find solutions to those problems, entering the debate, and perhaps even guiding or defining it.

Yet another reason is that this is all simply partisan. We are not naive. We understand that there is an increasingly partisan atmosphere in Washington, where the goal is to win power, and the best way to do that is to tear others down.

We respect Waxman. He has a long tenure of public service. But he faces an important choice: Does he want to sit on the sidelines and take potshots, or does he want to have an impact?

We hope he decides to have a positive impact, to leave government management better than it was before. Meanwhile, our invitation to talk remains open. Name the time and place, and we’ll be there.

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