Editorial: The challenges ahead

A review of the challenges of 2005 and the challenges of the new year.

As we were pulling together our review of the past 12 months, we realized it has been quite a year. There were many challenges, yet few of them could have been foreseen at this time last year. The year started with tsunami relief efforts in southeastern Asia, followed by earthquakes in Pakistan and, of course, the seemingly never-ending hurricane season.

The government information technology community also had to weather a difficult year:

  • A ballooning budget deficit will undoubtedly cloud all decisions for months, if not years, to come.
  • In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, lawmakers and the media are asking questions — most of them based more on perceptions rather than reality — about waste, fraud and abuse in government contracts.
  • The spending bubble following the 2001 terrorist attacks appears to have burst and left questions about what we got for all that spending, particularly given the government's lackluster Katrina response.
  • A leadership vacuum exists, particularly in procurement. Robert Burton is admirably leading the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, but he is only serving as acting administrator. A permanent replacement has not been named.
  • The General Services Administration is in the midst of a complex reorganization. Although many people have been pleased with the appointment of Marty Wagner as acting commissioner of the new Federal Acquisition Service, he, too, is serving in an acting capacity. A broader leadership vacuum exists because the agency does not have an administrator.

Serious challenges lie ahead, and they can seem overwhelming. An important and essential first step is for the Bush administration to nominate good, competent and qualified people to lead OFPP and GSA.

The procurement reforms, instituted a decade ago, are at a critical juncture. For government and industry, it is important that OFPP has a leader so he or she can be a spokesman for the important function of procurement.

The GSA administrator also acts as a voice for the procurement community. Filling that post is especially critical because of significant changes occurring at the agency. GSA has played a central role for many agencies, and its current unsteadiness could have far-reaching effects.

Undoubtedly new and unforeseen challenges will arise next year, and agencies must be ready with the best possible team in place. We look forward to the Bush administration's selections. We hope they come quickly.

— Christopher J. Dorobek

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