Trial by Twitter for acquisition pros

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The Trump administration is hoping to inject more speed and efficiency into the federal acquisition process, but that approach is still evolving and has some rough edges, according to procurement experts.

Though still a volatile Twitter presence, President Donald Trump has largely ceased interjecting his views on ongoing contracts and procurements, experts noted at a June 6 event at the George Washington University Law School.

However, Trump's transition tweets threatening to cancel and renegotiate aviation contracts because of pricing still have commercial vendors scratching their heads over what to expect from the administration.

"We have a tweet response plan," said one top defense company lawyer speaking on background under the terms of the event. He was referring to the president's Twitter remarks last year threatening to cancel a Boeing contract for a fleet of 747s destined to replace existing Air Force One aircraft.

More seriously, the defense company procurement official said contractors must adapt with a new "dealmaker mentality" in the White House. Such dealmakers, he said, aren't afraid to use leverage when they have it.

The administration, however, is looking to make federal procurement run more efficiently, "which isn't a bad thing," said Robert Burton, former deputy Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator.

"This is an opportunity for government contractors," he said, because the administration wants to reduce the burden of regulations and unwieldy acquisition practices. The challenge, he said, is that "they don't know exactly what they want to do with procurement."

Burton, who is now a partner at international law firm Crowell and Moring, said for all the Twitter thunder from the president about high-profile acquisitions, the administration is in the middle of developing firmer acquisition reform policy.

Burton, who worked with the White House transition team on management issues, said that "there are substantive policy ideas developing in the administration."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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