Tom Davis: A reformer on the Hill

Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) focused Congress' attention on acquisition reforms.

For Federal Computer Week's 25th anniversary issue, we highlight some of the people, policies and technologies that have influenced federal IT. Although it is not possible to include all the dynamic and dedicated people who have been or still are a part of this marketplace, we start with some who have left their mark.

Tom Davis, a Republican who represented Northern Virginia, was the point man for both the government users of technology and the industry that wanted to sell to them for many of the 14 years he served in Congress. The Oversight and Government Reform Committee was not a highly prized committee assignment when Davis asked for it. But he had seen the challenge from both sides — as general counsel at government contractor PRC and as a government official trying to work within the system, as archaic as it was. As the committee’s chairman, he drove change from Capitol Hill to streamline the processes while protecting the government customer.

“Tom is unquestionably one of the most knowledgeable legislators on federal procurement issues to have served in Congress,” said Rob Burton, a partner at Venable law firm and former deputy administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. “He championed significant acquisition reform legislation and was a dedicated supporter of the acquisition workforce.”

Davis was the chief author of the Federal Information Security Management Act that standardized basic cybersecurity and access protections for computer systems. He was also instrumental in acquisition reform and training and served as chairman of the Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee and co-chairman of Congress' IT Working Group, which promotes a better understanding among lawmakers of key technology issues. He is now director of federal government affairs at Deloitte and Touche.

“While there are many members of Congress who are knowledgeable about the tech industry, there is still no one who is able to step up and totally fill his shoes," said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president for the public sector at TechAmerica. Davis’ experience in procurement at the federal, state and local levels made his background unique, she added.

As technology has become more complex, oversight has become more fragmented and lawmakers seem less involved, said Bob Woods, president of Topside Consulting Group and a former senior official at the General Services Administration.

“Technology is more pervasive than ever, but Congress seems to have lost its way and does not have the interest,” he said. “Technology does not seem to be as important” to lawmakers, which makes Davis’ contribution to the federal IT community even more significant.

“Tom was more active and knowledgeable about IT acquisition and deployment than we have seen in a while,” Woods said.

NEXT: Meet e-gov's staunch champion.

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