The White House just pulled its nominee to fill the still-vacant job of federal procurement chief

The position has not had a confirmed leader for about 1.5 years.

The position has not had a confirmed leader for about 1.5 years. Glowimages / Getty Images

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has not had a confirmed leader since the Trump administration, despite the Biden administration's goals to use procurement to advance equity and curb climate change. 

The White House has pulled its nominee to lead the federal procurement office.

“The nominee chose to forgo the confirmation process to pursue other opportunities,” a White House official told Government Executive on Wednesday after the news late Tuesday afternoon about the withdrawal of Biniam Gebre, a former senior managing director at Accenture Federal Services and former Housing and Urban Development Department official. The administration will consider other nominees for this position.” 

In August President Biden nominated Gebre, who was then still at Accenture, to lead the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, which is within the Office of Management and Budget. Gebre was scheduled to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 19 on his nomination, but that was postponed. However, his prepared statement was still posted

A person familiar with the situation told Government Executive that Gebre withdrew because he decided he wanted more time with his children, which was a decision not made out of frustration for the time the confirmation process was taking.

According to his LinkedIn, Gebre was at Accenture from June 2017 to March of this year. He was previously a partner at Oliver Wyman, a management consulting firm, and was acting commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration within the Housing and Urban Development Department during the Obama administration. 

Michael Wooten, a Trump nominee who was confirmed in August 2019, is the most recently confirmed OFPP administrator. Government Executive spoke with several procurement experts about the implications of not having a confirmed leader at the office now. 

Rob Burton, partner with Crowell & Moring and former deputy administrator and acting administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said he was “surprised at the withdrawal of the nomination because the Biden administration is using procurement process probably more so than the Trump and Obama administrations” in order to “implement a lot of its high-profile policy initiatives in the economic and social areas.” However, Burton said he thinks it's a “testament” to the effectiveness and quality of the career acquisition professionals in the office that work can move forward without a permanent leader, as he knows from his own experience there. 

Stan Soloway, president and CEO of Celero Strategies LLC, who formerly served as president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, spoke very highly of Lesley Field, the acting administrator of the office, but said, “it’s very important to have confirmed political leadership to actually get stuff done; to get new stuff done,” such as carrying out the administration’s goals on diversity and equity and climate change. “Acquisition is absolutely core to the government’s operations and this position needs to be a serious senior leadership role and it's not always been treated as such.” 

Steven Schooner, procurement law professor at The George Washington University who previously served as associate administrator for procurement law and legislation at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said, “Without empowered political leadership, OFPP and, more broadly, the acquisition community is easily ignored and sidelined, and, as a result, underperforms.” 

The Biden administration can take “innumerable approaches” to filling the role of administrator “from reformer to caretaker to subject-matter expert to specific-policy advocate (or cheerleader) - and we've seen some version of all of them,” Schooner said. “Frankly, at this moment in time, I think the biggest squandered opportunity is not filling the position with a strong, outspoken advocate for sustainable procurement.”