John Mica: Chairman in waiting?

The Florida Republican is likely to be the next chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

John Mica

Rep. John Mica credits a teacher for sparking his initial curiosity about politics. (FCW photo by Stan Barouh)

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) is far from the first congressman to tackle the problem of wasted taxpayer dollars, but few lawmakers can match his commitment to fixing government or his general suspicion of the way agencies are currently managed. And federal executives would do well to pay attention because Mica will likely be the next chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Although Mica has only led the committee's Government Operations Subcommittee since January, his focus on fixing government stretches back to his first term in Congress in 1993. His interest in the business of government began even earlier.

"I've been a political addict since high school," Mica told FCW. He credited a teacher for sparking that initial curiosity. He said being part of a political family helped fuel that interest: His brother Dan served for 10 years as a representative from south Florida, and another brother, David, was an aide to the late Lawton Chiles when the latter was a senator.

Mica started his career in real estate and other businesses, then spent two years in the Florida legislature and five as a staffer for the late Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.). The turning point in his career, though, was running for Congress and winning a redistricted seat 20 years ago.

"I've been through three redistrictings, and the last one was quite the challenge," he said. "I had a primary challenge, which I haven't had since the beginning. But we did pretty good."

The subcommittee he leads has broad jurisdiction, and assuming Republicans continue to control the House, Mica is the presumed successor when term limits force Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to step down as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2015.

Mica has often played a leadership role on congressional subcommittees that focus on government reform. He took over the Government Operations Subcommittee when House GOP term limits required him to give up the chairmanship of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He continues to serve on that committee, where he provides leadership in setting broader infrastructure policy.

In the 112th Congress, the transportation committee took aim at the General Services Administration's mismanagement of empty buildings and unused property.

"We discovered a million square feet of unused warehouse space sitting in a prime location in Springfield, mostly used for storage," Mica said. "It's just one example of having an incredibly valuable asset and not using it to its maximum potential."

Most members of the public are unaware of the extent of government waste and inefficiency, whether it is unused real estate or redundant IT systems, Mica said. "Empty buildings are things people can understand, but IT is a little bit tougher," he said. "Issues like that, you try to bring to light. You put the focus and attention on the agencies and their mismanagement."

So far this year, Issa has handled most IT issues at the full committee level, including federal IT investment strategy reform, the Government Accountability Office's high-risk list and government transparency efforts. But Mica's subcommittee has jurisdiction over most non-workforce matters of concern to federal IT executives, and he said his panel intends to focus on data center consolidation and general government waste.

"More than a third of $80 billion goes to support obsolete or sometimes redundant IT systems," he said. "We're also looking at how we can change the acquisition process and the operations, and institute some efficiencies and better utilization of assets."

For Mica, that often means outsourcing to the private sector, and he said IT is an area in which that approach warrants further exploration.

"We have very hard, tangible evidence of the government's inability to control and manage spending. Should the government be buying equipment? Should the government even be operating that equipment?" Mica asked. "I think a lot of that could be more efficiently undertaken by the private sector, and that's something I intend to look at — getting [government] out of the acquisition process of computer systems."