During his two years as OFPP administrator, Dan Gordon worked on a variety of acquisition issues from improving and standardizing the workforce to pushing for more industry and agency communication through his “mythbusters” campaign.
Now, on the heels of the announcement that he will step down from his post for an associate dean position at George Washington University Law School, government procurement watchers are asking: What’s next?
The length of Gordon’s tenure — about two years — is comparable to that of other administrators in recent history, said former OFPP administrator Angela Styles in an interview on the the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris.
“It’s a hard job; it’s a 24/7 job,” she said. “And after a while, it wears you out.”
Styles, herself, stepped down as the head of the office in 2003, after about two-and-a-half years on the job.
There are “tough policy issues” to grapple with every day, she explained. And they often occur in the glare of the media spotlight, she added. “They’re really issues that are both substantive, regulatory issues and political and policy issues that come up every day.”
While an official date for Gordon’s departure hasn’t been set, the experts are already evaluating his legacy.
“I think he was a strong steady hand there,” Styles said. “I think he understood the acquisition workforce; he understood how procurement works. He showed that there can be a really strong leader in that job that can do it effectively, that can make very significant changes,” she added, citing, for example, his work on cutting back on the growth of multiple-award contracts.
Al Burman, a former OFPP adminstrator who’s now the president of Jefferson Consulting, pointed to Gordon’s efforts at bolstering the government’s acquisition workforce.
“We’ve had so many issues with workforce,” Burman said and Gordon said recognized “that we really need to beef up the folks that are doing this job.”
In September, OFPP announced it was revamping the position of contracting officer’s technical representative. The new position — which requires more training — will be known as a contracting officer’s representative.
Gordon has also earned high marks from industry.
Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, which represents many government contractors, praised Gordon’s “objective and reasoned approach.”
“Whether you agreed with him or not, he was a guy who would always seeks out lots of opinions — he’d listen, he’d respond,” Soloway said in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose. “And I think he changed the tone of the dialogue in some very critical ways.”
So far, Styles said, there’s no obvious shortlist of obvious replacements.
But whomever is picked as a successor should have a substantive background in government contracts, she said. Previous administrators without that crucial quality have had a much harder time getting up to speed. And whomever takes the reins must be comfortable amid the political fights that the Office of Management and Budget, in which OFPP resides, is often at the center of. “For better or worse, OMB … is a highly political environment,” she added.
The White House will also likely consider picking a successor already in the administration, Burman said, citing the grueling vetting process job candidates will face from Capitol Hill.
“It’s a very difficult and time-consuming process,” he said. “So, trying to get somebody brand-new in and starting from scratch, I think, would be pretty difficult at this time in the process.” Burman said.
Soloway said the calendar doesn’t do the administration any favors.
Even under the best of circumstances it could be months before a candidate is vetted and approved, Soloway said. The chances of getting the administration’s pick confirmed — in an election year when Congressional politicking runs high — are very slim, he said.
And depending on the outcome of the 2012 election, the successor may never actually sit for the job.