Letter: Cut Waxman some slack

In response to “Editorial: Waxman at a crossroads,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is turning over rocks, not throwing stones. We need to recognize that the agencies and Congress have not exercised effective oversight of many programs and contracts for years. We¹re all paying for that now. Credit the congressman with exposing the sorry performance of the Deepwater shipbuilders and helping motivate the Coast Guard to strengthen oversight and ask for a refund on boats that need to be scrapped. Also credit him for illuminating the negligent State Department oversight of security contractors in and helping to motivate State to make changes. And he’s tried to restrain the current General Services Administration administrator from driving away customers.

 



There are many other examples. And even when Waxman is plainly wrong, as in charges of organizational conflicts of interest of specific Homeland Security Department contractors working on SBInet, he motivates firms to re-examine and tighten their safeguards. As for politics being a part of his behavior, what can we expect? He’s a congressman, and that’s what they do. He must be hitting some pay dirt, though, because the president has complained out loud about Congress launching too many investigations.


If you look at the Web site for the committee Waxman heads, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and count the legislation that it has proposed, and add other bills sponsored by members of his large committee, his committee has outdistanced any committee in proposing fixes to neglected acquisition problems. Yes, some of his proposals are over the top, too intrusive, redundant or burdensome. Many are quite sensible. Like most major legislation, hardly anything has passed so far. You don’t see the agencies or the Office of Federal Procurement Policy with nearly the volume of fixes. And frankly, if the agencies just applied and enforced compliance with statutes and regulations already on the books, there’d be better performance by both government and contractors. Most of what they do is OK or better, but the failures have a way of standing out and stinging, especially when school's been out for years.

 



Finally, don’t ruminate too much about Waxman’s failing to sit for a full interview with Federal Computer Week; you’re in good company. I sense he has some defensible reasons for choosing more direct channels to make the committee’s work known. And he’s probably somewhat tired about being a convenient bogeyman for a lot of stakeholders sitting on their hands.


Michael Lent
Editor and publisher
Government Services Insider


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