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FCW Insider: Waxman speaks... er, never mind


This is actually a combination of a blog post that I started writing back on Jan. 11 (but never finished or posted)...and new stuff.

Back then, I was going to congratulate the Coalition for Government Procurement for a big "get." The coalition managed to get Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as a speaker. This was pulled from the Coalition's weekly update:


WAXMAN AGREES TO SPEAK AT COALITION EVENT:  House Government Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman will be the featured speaker at the Coalition’s February 15th breakfast meeting to be held at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington, VA.  Chairman Waxman, one of the most influential Congressmen on the topic of government acquisition, will discuss his committee’s oversight and legislative agenda for 2008.  Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear someone who can fundamentally alter the way your company conducts federal business.


 


But then yesterday came word that.... BZZZZ... Waxman canceled.


From the coalition's notice, which came out late yesterday:


Due to circumstances wholly beyond our control, we regret to inform you that Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will not be able to speak at the scheduled breakfast on Friday, February 15, 2008. While we attempt to reschedule with him, we realize that this is a disappointment to you. We had a sound confirmation that Rep. Waxman was coming until we were notified of a conflict on his schedule and please be assured that the Coalition did everything we could to keep Chairman Waxman on for the scheduled event.


In the meantime, the Coalition is pleased to announce that Administrator Steve Preston of the U.S. Small Business Administration will now be our speaker at the scheduled breakfast event on February 15th. There has been a small update to the time of the event. We will begin at 7:15 a.m. with registration and adjourn at 9:30 a.m.

 
Please click here to view the event flyer and registration form.


Too bad. Sad, really. Very disappointing.

Here is what I had written (but unfortunately had not posted) earlier this month:


While offering congratulations to the coalition, I'd also give kudos to Waxman for reaching out. I have been something of a campaign encouraging Waxman to speak. I have offered FCW as the forum -- and that offer stands. We would love to sit down and chat with the committee chairman about his goals and objectives. We still would love to sit down and talk with him. I am heartened that he is going to get out there and address these issues.


I have an e-mail in to coalition officials to see if the meeting is being rescheduled or if it is just canceled. I haven't heard yet.


So I'm very disappointed.

I have received numerous e-mails and had many conversations with people about why Waxman has dodged sitting down with FCW. Unfortunately, much of it is speculation because we have not been given a specific reason for why Waxman will not sit down with us in the first place. (As I noted in FCW's editorial in the 10.29 issue, an issue that focused on procurement, we asked repeatedly for a sit down with Waxman. They eventually agreed to provide us with written responses to written questions. Unfortunately, as you can read for yourself, the resulting Q&A was largely uninteresting. As a result, I decided not to run it in print and we posted it online.)


We -- more specifically, I -- continue to hope that Waxman will agree to sit down with us. He is a very important person for agencies and he can have an enormous influence. Unfortunately, I think he has abused that influence, largely sitting on the sidelines poking others, but failing to offer an alternative view for the future. That has left this community unsettled, to say the least.

And so...people have speculated about why Waxman has refused to sit down with us.


A few people suggested that Waxman was probably concerned that we -- specifically me -- would not treat him fairly. Again, I have no idea. I guess it certainly could be possible. I have been relatively tough on Waxman because I think it is such an important position and he can have such an impact on government management. And I think he has done drive-by oversight touching on high-profile, politically charged issues. These issues may be sexy and grab headlines, they don't fundamentally impact government agencies. They are flashes. They don't get to the heart of the issues. They don't bring about change.


Waxman can do so much to get the tone -- either good or bad. And I think this stuff is so important. And there are real issues here that need to be dealt with.


That being said, I think I have a reputation for being tough yet being abundantly fair. I don't believe in hatchet job journalism and we would never do it. My reputation is very important to me, and I wouldn't do anything to risk that. So, to that end, I have agreed to post the full transcript of FCW's Waxman interview on FCW.com. I'll even post the audio of the interview on our Web site.


That being said, Waxman is a very smart man and I don't believe for a minute that he is in any way afraid of me, for goodness sake.


Another person suggested that Waxman just doesn't care all that much about government management and procurement issues. This person suggested that he likes these high-profile issues, but he is not interested in getting into the nitty gritty of real procurement reform or instituting real changes. Having not had a conversation with him, I have no idea, of course, but it would make more sense to me. Most government management issues are not sexy. They don't garner big headlines. And they will carry few votes outside of a few specific areas of the country. They don't rally the crazy people at MoveOn.org.


So I will again ask -- implore -- Waxman to talk... please.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Jan 29, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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