By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Welcome Dan Gordon to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy

It's official: Daniel Gordon is the nominee to become administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Gordon, currently acting general counsel of the Government Accountability Office (and one-time head of the division at GAO that adjudicates bid protests), is a great choice.

Some people have preconceptions that will cause them to worry about the appointment. Initially in his blog, Chris Dorobek of Federal News Radio described Gordon as a member of the "oversight community," which of course most contracting professionals wouldn't regard as cause for celebration. We have had enough of a contracting system focused on uncovering wrongdoing rather than promoting right-doing the last few years. We've had enough of the fear industry. A background in bid protests is, for many, not a positive signal -- though it should be noted that Gordon was a government judge, not a bid-protest lawyer, and that he recently defended the role of bid protests in the procurement system as a good alternative to audits (not an unintelligent viewpoint).

More importantly, though, Dan Gordon brings the right temperment, intelligence and procurement philosophy to the job.

I have described Gordon as a nebbish with a heart -- and this description comes from a guy (myself) who also fundamentally sees himself as a nebbish, hopefully with a heart. Gordon is an amazingly decent and wonderful human being, modest and un-self promoting, with a great sense of (sometimes self-effacing) humor and an interest in a wide range of topics. We share an interest in French novels and in studying Chinese, which Gordon is currently doing. He is a work horse rather than a show horse, in the best sense. A career civil servant, Gordon embodies the best virtues of career federal managers -- hard work, commitment to the public interest and an interest in substance more than show.

Gordon should do very well in the high-priority task of reaching out to the contracting professionals with both support and challenge -- backing them up, but encouraging them to stretch themselves to create a better-value procurement system. I am confident people will like him a lot.

Despite any preconceptions based on a narrow reading of his resume, Gordon has a commitment to a results-oriented procurement system. He is more at home with the word "innovation" than with the word "compliance" as a description of his priorities. His immediate boss, Jeff Zients (chief performance officer and deputy director for management at OMB) insisted on an innovator in looking for OFPP candidates, and Zients shares the view that Gordon fits that bill. For years, he has been a supporter of the thrust of the streamlining and results-oriented procurement reforms of the 1990's.

Finally, Gordon is a very smart guy. He is a good conceptual thinker -- and I believe thinks as much or more like a manager than like a lawyer, despite his professional background -- with a lot of IQ points. He does not wear his intelligence arrogantly, but it will stand him in good stead in this job.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Oct 05, 2009 at 12:08 PM


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