Editorial: More headlines than help

FCW shares hopeful and depressing points about the main players at a Doan hearing.

Federal agencies face tough issues, particularly those related to procurement. But you wouldn’t know that if you had attended a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing earlier this month, which featured Lurita Doan, administrator of the General Services Administration, in a starring role.

The four-hour session was the administrator’s second appearance before the committee in the past few months. The session seemed to be misfocused on partisan political issues that might have been helpful to those involved in political campaigns, but it failed to improve government procurement and management.

Here are our thoughts on what was hopeful — and depressing — about the major players at the hearing.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee:
Hopeful: Waxman has raised the visibility of oversight and highlighted some of the procurement issues that agencies are facing.
Depressing: The committee, so far, has focused on issues that make headlines rather than issues that make a difference. Waxman’s views about government procurement are different from those of his predecessor. That’s fine, but Waxman’s vision has not become clear in the hearings or in the handful of speeches he has given.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), ranking minority member on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee:
Hopeful: Davis has long been a guiding force for government procurement and reform. He has been a moderating influence on some of the more rabid partisans on both sides of the aisle.
Depressing: Davis can get sucked into the fracas. During his opening statement at the Doan hearing, he went on about Valerie Plame Wilson, whose difficulties had nothing to do with the Doan hearing.

Hopeful: Doan seems increasingly committed to the task of focusing on agency customers and ensuring that they get what they need to do their work. At one point in the hearing, Doan was asked what was her biggest challenge, and she spoke eloquently about the procurement workforce.
Doan has not yet put to rest the findings that she violated the Hatch Act. She often seems unable to listen, to a degree that even Republican supporters commented on it.

Those depressing thoughts are serious ones. We hope the issues behind them will be addressed.