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By Steve Kelman

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Meeting Joe Jordan

I recently had a chance to meet for the first time Joe Jordan, the newly Senate-confirmed administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. I had read media accounts about him that emphasized his previous job as head of small-business contracting at the Small Business Administration, which frankly made me a little worried Jordan might pursue a narrow agenda as OFPP administrator.

I was definitely wrong. I came away from meeting Jordan extremely impressed – and I predict the contracting community will, as people get to know him, be impressed as well. For starters, he is a genuinely nice, regular guy, unassuming, not full of himself, almost always a smile on his face. He’s the kind of person you’d like to spend time with at a backyard barbecue, not just at a meeting of the Chief Acquisition Officers Council.

Second, although Jordan doesn’t have the depth of expertise about government contracting Dan Gordon did (who does?), he has what in my view is the next-best thing: a business background working at McKinsey & Company for several years on organizational management improvements, with some emphasis on procurement savings, including working on a project with the State of Maine that cut almost 10 percent from its procurement costs.

Ask me to choose between an expert on the Federal Acquisition Regulation and an expert on procurement as a business process and on how to manage procurement to save money and create customer value, and I will, frankly, choose the latter. In my view, Jordan has a great background for the job. Furthermore, he has a Boy Scoutish enthusiasm for trying to improve things – and for working with the career civil service – that I think is really refreshing. He is the opposite of old, tired and cynical.

Third, he is not a partisan guy. He didn’t work on an election campaign. He didn’t aggressively seek to lave McKinsey; the head of the Maine Governor’s Council on Competitiveness, who was involved in his procurement work at McKinsey, was tapped by President Obama to head SBA. He has a straightforward, good government agenda.

(That Jordan could win Senate confirmation in a presidential election year is a sign he is not a partisan guy, and also a hopeful signal from Congress that procurement is not a partisan issue, at least for the moment.)

Jordan can speak for himself about his agenda, but I think it’s safe to say with his management perspective, he will be a fan of looking for innovative ways to save the government money during these tight budget times and to improve the ability of the procurement system to serve government missions.

Finally, he’s from the Boston area – what more could you ask for?

(Full disclosure: My wife works at OMB and is a colleague of Jordan’s, though not in the same office.)

Posted by Steve Kelman on Jun 21, 2012 at 12:09 PM

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Reader comments

Mon, Jun 25, 2012 Vern Edwards

Disappointing column, Steve. Here is what I learned: 1. Mr. Jordan is a nice guy. (I believe you.) 2. You think Mr. Jordan is qualified. (I understand why you think that.) 3. Mr. Jordan is not partisan. (Well, okay.) 4. Mr. Jordan will not pursue a narrow agenda. (Okay, so agenda will he pursue -- other than the de rigueur improving opportunities for small business and seeking improvement in the workforce -- and is it something that he can pull off?) Here is what I think. We have had many OFPP administrators with good resumes who were nice guys and gals. Most of them did not accomplish much of lasting significance, and most working level people cannot name more than one or two, you being one of them. We must be realistic -- the real power of the OFPP administrator are very limited, as you well know. (The Director of Defense Procurement arguably has far more real power. He can issue a memo and make people do what he says right now.) Yet you were very effective in bringing about lasting change. We still see the effects of the things you accomplished. So I am much more interested in hearing what you think Mr. Jordan really can do in terms of lasting change to a system with which no one seems to be satisfied. What can he do besides issue memos that few will read, much less remember, and speak at conferences, of which there will be fewer? What's the secret? Everyone touts new appointees. They are all going to be great on the day they were confirmed. (Go back and read Davis Safavian's press. He, too, was touted for his management experience.) We don't need to hear that from you. What we need from you is what you think Mr. Jordan should do, and can do, and how he can go about doing it. We really need to hear that.

Fri, Jun 22, 2012

Steve, nice blog on Joe and you nailed it! In the few years I've worked with him, he is exactly like you described and is wonderful to work with. He will continue to add value as part of the acquisition community.

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