Editorial: A toast to Lee's service

Earlier this month, Deidre Lee announced that she will retire in March after 30 years of government service.

We have grown somewhat inured to the constant drumbeat of departures, but the announcement that Lee is leaving feels different. She has had a storied career that began on the front lines in NASA’s procurement shop. From there, she moved to the top levels of government, as administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy for a time and as leader of procurement and acquisition policy at the Defense Department.

When the General Services Administration was in turmoil, she joined GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service as assistant commissioner of integrated technology services. She later joined the Homeland Security Department’s embattled Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As we all know, leadership doesn’t depend solely on one’s title. True leaders are beacons no matter what position they hold, and that has always been the case with Lee. She also is universally liked and respected, which puts her in a small club these days.

Lee is one of those rare people who can build consensus and be forceful at the same time. She listens, yet she manages to keep the ball moving down the field. She has always looked out for what was best for the agency, the government and the citizens of the country for whom she worked.

She also has been astute about remaining above the fray so she could be fair and objective. However, we think she could have played a more forceful role in certain debates, particularly those about procurement issues.

Nevertheless, we deeply respect her abilities as a leader who unites rather than divides — a skill that is desperately needed these days. Her attributes as a leader made her views, when she did express them, worth listening to.

Lee preferred to speak through her actions. Last year, she received a Greater Washington Government Contractor Award for being the public-sector partner of the year. It would have been easy for Lee to dodge that kind of award at a time when government/industry partnerships are under attack. But she didn’t because she believes in those partnerships.

Lee has been a model of government service and a procurement leader. We thank her for her years of service.

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