Editorial: The culture war

The decision to pull the share-in-savings rule is part of a divisive culture in which agencies cannot try anything new or innovative. That needs to change

We were disappointed — but not shocked — when the share-in-savings contracting program was put on life support.

The agency councils that craft acquisition rules agreed to withdraw a 2004 proposal that outlines the parameters for the innovative and controversial contracting method. In bureaucratic terms, share-in-savings has lost its statutory authority. Translation: It has lost the wind from its sails.

The move is troubling, even beyond the fate of share-in-savings. It is the most recent and perhaps clearest indication of a terrible procurement climate. The outlook starkly contrasts to a decade ago when leaders ushered in reforms that streamlined and revolutionized the government’s procurement system.

That was a period of change, when people tested innovative ideas and concepts in hopes that they could find new and better ways to do the government’s business.

But so much has happened in the past year. The General Services Administration has had notable problems. Contracting issues — real or perceived — with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts attracted national criticism. And of course, David Safavian’s arrest and subsequent indictment shook the procurement world.

In Safavian’s defense, he was serving as the Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s administrator when he was arrested, and the indictment does not relate to his OFPP post or government procurement — at least so far.

But that has not stopped people from slinging cheap shots at the Bush administration as part of a partisan scheme. That is unfair, and it fosters a culture that prevents measures that could lead to improving the way agencies do business.

In this landscape, is anybody surprised that the government has let a concept such as share-in-savings wither? Questions still loom about its effectiveness, but we will not be able to test the theory. That is disappointing, not only for share-in-savings, but for other potentially innovative programs — perhaps ones that we do not even know about yet — that could disappear before being given an opportunity to prove themselves.

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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