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FCW Insider: The Burton retirement party

OK, this is over due, but... given that OFPP Administrator Paul Denett just announced his September departure, it is a good time to get to a post from OFPP Deputy Administrator Rob Burton's retirement festivities.

As we mentioned last month in the 07.21.2008 issue of Federal Computer Week's Buzz of the Week, it is the season for retirements -- and retirement parties. There was the IAC retirement party for Bob Suda. And last month, in just one week, there was festivities for Ed Meagher, who has joined SRA International, and for Robert Burton. Leslie Field will be replacing Burton in that post -- and likely in Denett's post as acting OFPP administrator.

Burton, however, represents a particular loss for OMB -- and for the procurement community. It has been a rough period for procurement and acquisition personnel, and Burton was one of the few people rallying them on -- to embrace competition and to think of their jobs strategically. And he is a person who loves procurement -- and procurement policy. And it shows. His passion for the subject is infectious.

At his retirement party, his colleagues roasted Burton as a person who liked reporters -- and he did. Burton was always very good about taking my calls. But, and maybe I'm being selfish here, but I think it was good for OMB, for OFPP, and for the procurement community. Because Burton was open, we were able to answer questions. It got the OMB viewpoint on many issues. And it created a level of trust. And, frankly, I think that is a big part of OFPP leadership -- getting the message out and spurring on the troops.

Burton had a wonderful retirement party held at the Dolley Madison House, which is located overlooking Lafayette Square. (I can't find any really good links for the Dolley Madison House; this one from the National Park Service talks about Lafayette Square, including the Dolley Madison House.)

Burton is a classy guy, and his speech was characteristically classy. But there were several other very touching moments such as when Shay Assad, DOD’s director of Defense procurement and acquisition policy, recognized Burton's commitment to DOD; Clay Johnson, OMB's deputy director of management, talking about Burton; and outgoing OPM director Linda Springer talking about her favorite Burton moment. Springer actually spoke about one night when they were watching the lighting of the White House Christmas tree from Burton's office -- Burton had a ninth floor corner office in the New Executive Office Building and had one of the most most amazing views in DC. (See below and here.) So they were clicking the lights on-and-off as their families watched on TV at home.  (See all of the Burton videos here.)

Burton's view

In the 07.21.2008 issue, we have The FCW Exit Interview with Burton. Earlier this year, FCW wrote our editorial about Burton. "During his tenure as deputy administrator, Burton has been able to bring stability, credibility and excellence to OFPP," something that was often lacking in the OFPP administrator's office. And we profiled Burton in October 2007. In fact, in October 2005, we called for the Bush administration to just name Burton as OFPP administrator. Unfortunately they didn't listen to us. And, frankly, I was disappointed that Denett didn't show at Burton's retirement gathering. Those kinds of measures speak volumes to others about the importance of people.

We have heard rumors that Burton has a new job, but we haven't confirmed it yet. We'll let you know once we lock it down.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Aug 07, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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