Editorial: Rob Burton: A steady hand

Robert Burton announced last month that he will retire from government in June after a nearly 30-year government career. Burton is deputy administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

In recent months, we have used this spot to highlight the careers of people we believe have gone above and beyond to make a difference, such as Deidre Lee and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.). Burton deserves to stand among those luminaries of the community. In fact, in October 2005, under the headline, “Choose Burton, choose soon,” Federal Computer Week urged the Bush administration to name Burton as OFPP administrator.

In that column, we wrote: “Burton, who was named associate administrator several years ago, has won the respect of many people on Capitol Hill for his knowledge of federal procurement issues. With his experience and reputation, Burton could quickly restore some stability and credibility to OFPP.”

Of course in the end, the administration did not pick Burton for the post. However, during his tenure as deputy administrator, Burton has been able to bring stability, credibility and excellence to OFPP.

He has done that in difficult times. Burton was forced to take the reins after former OFPP Administrator David Safavian was arrested. But even apart from the demands of OFPP administrators, it has been a difficult time for government procurement. Employees often feel overworked, under-appreciated, harshly scrutinized and second-guessed. Meanwhile, the culture around procurement issues has become caustic, almost preventing a discussion about issues.

Through all that, Burton has been there with a steady hand on the wheel. He has been there, urging procurement executives and contracting officers to help their agencies accomplish their missions. Burton has been there with his addictive passion for government, government procurement, acquisition and excellence.

But Burton has also been there to provide stability and consistency during trying and turbulent times.
We are disappointed when good people leave government, often because of the private sector’s higher salaries. Unfortunately, Burton joins a growing list of people saying goodbye.

But we still believe it is important to honor a career of public service. We hope — and believe — that Burton will continue to be a voice for good government procurement.

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