Editorial: A missed opportunity

It has been several weeks since Lurita Doan, the administrator of the General Services Administration, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In hindsight, the lingering question is: What did it all mean — and what does it mean for government procurement and good government?

Unfortunately, when all is said and done, it means very little. The spectacle that took place late last month was a missed opportunity.
The government procurement community faces serious issues — issues that need to be debated. But neither Doan nor the committee members used the session as an opportunity to address those issues and help the government take steps that would result in more effective, better-run organizations.

One example: Oversight.

An important issue in government procurement is the role of oversight, particularly the relationships among procurement officials, auditors, inspectors general and congressional overseers. Those relationships are strained — at best.

Nobody is suggesting that there should be no oversight. We are not. Most procurement executives appreciate an environment in which they can learn ways to improve how they do their work. And if there is waste, fraud and abuse, people should be prosecuted — as they have been.

But a perception among the procurement workforce is that just about any decision they make can be reviewed and re-reviewed — over and over again. Another perception among procurement employees is that mistakes are not tolerated. Those workers fear having their mistakes plastered on the front pages of newspapers and aired in congressional hearings. We don’t believe that is the desire of the overseers — lawmakers or IGs.

The Doan hearing could have presented an opportunity to have a debate about what the role of oversight should be, which procurement activities need reforming or how agencies should go about determining what government work is eligible for competition.

That discussion probably would not have made headlines in mainstream newspapers, but it would have started a conversation about important issues and moved us a step closer to more effective government operations, which we believe is everybody’s goal.

Unfortunately, on that issue and other important topics, the Doan hearing was a missed opportunity.


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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