DHS procurement chief retires

Greg Rothwell, the chief procurement officer at the Homeland Security Department, is retiring from civil service, according to a DHS spokesman.

Rothwell’s last day will be Dec. 2, Larry Orluskie, a DHS spokesman, said today.

Elaine Duke, DHS’ deputy chief procurement officer, is expected to serve as acting chief procurement officer until Janet Hale, DHS’ undersecretary for management and Rothwell’s boss, hires a permanent replacement.

Rothwell joined DHS in July 2003 and has been responsible for organizing, overseeing and streamlining how DHS buys products and services for its 22 component organizations.

Government and industry experts alike view Rothwell as an innovative, result-oriented leader in one of the most complex, high-pressure jobs in the federal government.

Rothwell has experience leading large organizations through rapid and pervasive change. Before he joined DHS, he was already well-known in federal circles for revolutionizing acquisition at the Internal Revenue Service. In his 13 years there, he transformed its procurement shop from a federal joke to the most respected among civilian agencies.

At DHS, he consolidated 13 separate procurement offices into eight that act as one. He created the Information Technology Acquisition Center (ITAC) to maximize the department’s purchasing power. At that same time, he faced tremendous challenges with staffing and problems from DHS’ legacy organizations.

Rothwell is an institution whom vendors and government officials will sorely miss, said Anthony Anikeeff, partner and head of the government contracts practice area at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, a Washington, D.C., law firm.

Rothwell is known for his accessibility to vendors and willingness to help find solutions to problems, Anikeeff said. When DHS was created, everyone expected it would issue many new procurement rules and regulations, Anikeeff said. But Rothwell added only a few, which eased tension in the department and among vendors, and helped get things off to a good start, he said.

Rothwell created a cohesive acquisition workforce and leveraged it well, Anikeeff said. Instead of having his small staff handle thousands of contracts directly, Rothwell set up a system of large contracts with big systems integrators that acted as buffers to the vendor community, he said.

What is even more impressive is that Rothwell accomplished everything he did without having as much authority as he really needed, Anikeeff said. DHS’ chief procurement officer is a director-level position, not an assistant secretary–level position, which has direct personnel and budget authority.

Replacing Rothwell will be difficult, given the difficulties of the position, Anikeeff said. Whoever replaces Rothwell should emulate his accessibility and willingness to work with vendors of all sizes, he said.

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