Editorial: Good government

Earlier this month, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) announced he was taking time off from elected office. We certainly understand that, but it’s too bad for government information technology and good government in general.

Davis is a unique figure in Congress. He cares about government management and IT issues, and he knows what he is talking about. That mixture of passion and knowledge made Davis a powerful and influential figure, certainly one of the most powerful people in the government IT community.

He will be much missed and not easily replaced.

Davis came into office in the 1994 Republican “revolution.” But he has always been a refreshing voice in Congress. Much to the chagrin of the Bush administration and even some in the Republican congressional leadership, Davis has been an independent voice in what too often these days is a cacophony of party lines and talking points. He has always realized that the job of lawmakers is to leave the country better than they found it.

Davis has clear positions about government procurement.

He has argued that creating a procurement environment that mirrors the private sector is better in the long run for government. He has argued that agencies should focus on their missions and make use of innovation by the private sector. He believes that competition, rather than a highly regulated artificial framework, provides the government the best value for its dollar.

Davis has never been someone who sits on the sidelines throwing stones. Unlike some lawmakers, Davis has not not been reluctant or unable to get down to the details of ways to make things better. In many ways, his critiques of agencies’ programs have been more forceful without bullying and headline-grabbing oversight efforts. A case in point: The February 2006 report of the House Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina. The report is one of the better analyses of what happened — or didn’t happen — during Katrina relief operations, and it suggests what can be done to fix those problems.

We continue to be deeply disturbed by the public’s distaste for government institutions as demonstrated in poll numbers for President Bush and, even worse, Congress. Those viewpoints affect government overall.

One reason for the public’s disdain, we believe, is a focus on winning individual battles while losing the war: the difficult task of governing effectively and efficiently.

Davis is not perfect — none of us are — but he was an able soldier for good government. He will be missed.  

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