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DorobekINSIDER: Green government – and telework

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I had the pleasure of moderating a panel last week… ostensibly on green IT, but it ended up being about the larger issue of green government.

The program was sponsored by the Java Team of the American Council on Technology and Industry Advisory Council’s Partners program, which is a marvelous development program designed to help government and industry understand each other better.

And we had a great line-up:

Jeff Eagan, Energy Department, who is on assignment at the White House reviewing the agency sustainability plans. I should note he is a 2010 Fed 100 winner.
Emile Monette, director of GSA’s Federal Technology Service’s sustainability division
Kimberly T. Nelson, Microsoft and former EPA CIO
Marian Van Pelt, a principal at ICF and a carbon inventory expert.

And we discussed Executive Order 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance [PDF] — read more from the White House about EO 13514 here… and a WhiteHouse.gov blog post on the green initiative here.

The executive order essentially calls on agencies to cut energy use by 28 percent… and they were required to submit “sustainability plans” to the Office of Management and Budget by the begging of this month. (I understand all are in now.)

There were several issues that came out of our discussion.

One was that this just seems overwhelming. One CIO for one of the big agency departments asked, essentially, help me know what are the best things to do out there. Agencies — and agency CIOs — have scores of mandates on them… and most of them generally want to be as green as possible. That being said, the greening discussion became so broad that it became almost overwhelming.

The general response was…
1. Work with your sustainability officer… Each agency is required to appoint a chief sustainability officers. I can’t seem to find a list of those names, unfortunately, but the first recommendation was to find out who that person is and work with them.

2. Measure… The second was to come up with a plan for measuring what your organization’s energy footprint is… so you can then determine if you are having an impact.

3. Just do it… Start doing something… turning off computers at night… turn off lights in buildings… reduce your data centers… GSA Administrator Martha Johnson has actually taken this issue quite seriously. At recent conferences, GSA executives were prohibited from renting their own cars. Instead, GSA organized a bus to shuttle people where they needed to go. And, it was pointed out to me, GSA actually sought public input on its sustainability plan.

4. See helpful links below for other ideas.

The other big issue that was discussed was — ready for it — telework. I should note that this is now the third green focused panel that I have moderated — and it is the third time the panel has been dominated by telework issues. And again, people asked why the government seems to be so reluctant to institute telework — and why there isn’t more of a push for telework.

Last week on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Dorobek Insider, we spoke about telework — and a new FedScoop survey on the government’s attitudes towards telework [PDF]. The survey shows the government is still behind, but that attitudes are changing.

Anyway, during the discussion, there were a number of helpful sites mentioned… I promised I would round them up.

* The Federal Electronics Challenge: http://www.federalelectronicschallenge.net
The Federal Electronics Challenge (FEC) is a partnership program that encourages federal facilities and agencies to:
Purchase greener electronic products.
Reduce impacts of electronic products during use.
Manage obsolete electronics in an environmentally safe way.

* EPEAT: http://www.epeat.net
EPEAT is a system that helps purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on their environmental attributes. The system currently covers desktop and laptop computers, thin clients, workstations and computer monitors.

* Energy Department’s Federal Energy Management Program
The Energy Department’s Federal Energy Management Program’s (FEMP) mission is to facilitate the Federal Government’s implementation of sound, cost-effective energy management and investment practices to enhance the nation’s energy security and environmental stewardship.

Other resources from Federal News Radio 1500 AM:

* For Earth Day, we spoke to Michelle Moore, Federal Environmental Executive in the Executive Office of the President. She is the person who is leading the oversight of the agency sustainability plans. Hear that conversation here.

* Somebody who just did it: Want to have hope in what you can do… and in young people… Last week, I got to talk to a 29-year-old woman who is making a difference. Saskia van Gendt is a resource conservation specialist at the EPA… and she is working in the field of “climaterials” — essentially the greening of all the materials to make buildings. And she launched a contest — the Lifecycle Building Challenge, a yearly online competition that recognizes cutting-edge building design and challenges students, architects and builders to reduce the environmental impact of buildings. This ‘just do it’ attitude scored her a place as a finalist for the Service to America Medals — the SAMMIES. Hear Ms. van Gendt talk about what she did here.

* Beneath the Green Dome: My colleague Amy Morris did a series looking at the greening of the Capitol. Find that series here.

Tomorrow… is there a better way to do sustainability plans?

Written by cdorobek

June 21, 2010 at 9:51 AM

DorobekINSIDER: GSA clarifies the role of regional administrators

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Many GSA watchers believe that one of the longstanding systemic issues within GSA were regional administrators. The issue: Did the regional administrators report to the GSA administrator. Because the regional administrators are political appointees, it was a cloudy issue.

Earlier this year, GSA renamed the regional administrations as ‘regional commissioners’… and named regional senior executives

But last week, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson issued a memo titled “Regional Leadership Structure” — posted below — which seeks to define the role of the regional administrators.

The regional administrator is the GSA official in the region who represents the administrator, and is the face of GSA and the White House in the region. There is new significance to this role because GSA, for the first time, is in a limelight position with an administration. We are being asked to do much more and do it in a much more visible and governmentwide arena.

While previously, the regional administrators were expected to “run” the operational divisions of the region, that ends up being “somewhat foolish” as the expertise, situational knowledge, and functional clustering was in the Federal Acquisition Service and the Public Building Service, she said. “Asking a regional administrator to assume a knowledgeable oversight role did not regularly match their qualifications.”

Read the full memo here:

View this document on Scribd

Previous posts:

DorobekINSIDER: GSA renames regional administrators as ‘regional commissioners’ — the first step to a broader reorg? [March 18, 2009]

DorobekInsider.com: Many changes at GSA – this week, it’s the regional senior executives [April 25, 2009]

Written by cdorobek

April 21, 2010 at 6:19 PM

DorobekINSIDER: Assessing transparency and open government

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Last weekend, open government advocates gathered in Washington, DC for the second Transparency Camp — an un-conference, which is one of these events where bright people come together and decide what they want to talk about. Read the Twitter feed from that event by checking out #tcamp2010 — and even the Washington Post wrote a story about the event this year.

I could only be there on the second day, but there were great folks with great ideas…

I have been fascinated by the Obama administration’s transparency and open government initiative. Among previous posts:

The DorobekInsider transparency, openness and data.gov reader [May 22, 2009]

DorobekInsider: The first draft from the Open Government and Innovations conference [July 21, 2009]

DorobekINSIDER: On NewsChannel 8 talking government openness and transparency — the liner notes [February 25, 2010]

Signal magazine column: Why Transparency Matters [May 2009]

Signal magazine column: Contract Transparency Poised to Open Up [September 2009]

And O’Reilly media has just published a book Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice. I’ve just started it, but… the early parts of the book are well worth reading.

And this coming week will be a big week for the open government as the Office of Management and Budget and agencies will issue their open government plans.

There were several interesting aspects that came out of transparency camp.

* Most agencies get transparency: Most of the employees I know get transparency and open government. They understand why it matters and how it can help. In theory, they get that one of the powerful parts of transparency is the acknowledgment that more wisdom exists outside any organization than it does inside an organization. That being said, there is a difference between theory and practice. At Transparency Camp 2010, there were a number of staffers from Capitol Hill, which, by and large, is horrible at transparency. And some of the Hill staffers even suggested that if bills are created in a more open framework, well, that’s what staffers do. And the argument is that they know more then… well, those people out there.

Even still, the theory of transparency is one of those ideas that goes against the grain. It’s akin to the Mike Causey example that he uses for investing: When a car starts sliding on ice, you’re supposed to turn into the slide. It just doesn’t feel natural. In many ways, transparency is unnatural.

Furthermore…

* Transparency and open government still isn’t fully defined: As I said last year, transparency continues something akin to a Rorschach test — everybody sees transparency very differently. Each person has very different ways of defining what transparency means and how it can be implemented. A lot of that is good at this point — it is important to note that we are still very early in this and everybody is still learning. But it will be interesting to see how it actually gets implemented.

* Transparency and open government moves a lot of cheese around… and I’ll take a simple example: Freedom of Information Act Requests. It has always seemed to me that this is a process that is just made for openness and transparency. Why can’t all FOIA requests be posted in a public fashion… and agency responses be posted online. One reason: We journalists don’t want others knowing what we are working on.

* Open government and transparency needs to help government operate better: If this is going to take hold — if this is going to be real, I continue to believe that it needs to help agencies do their jobs better.

* Open government and transparency aren’t just a bludgeon: In many ways, Recovery.gov is the poster child for transparency and open government. In fact, Earl Devaney, the chairman of the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board told Federal News Radio that the transparency of the site actually has helped the Recovery Board operate more effectively. But it has been difficult at times. We remember the stories about the recovery dollars that were listed in phantom congressional districts. And everybody went nuts. The fact is that incorrect data was probably always there. We just didn’t know it before. Now we know — and it has been fixed. In fact, that is the power of open government, transparency and collaboration. Yet too often we use it as a bludgeon.

The fact is, this is new — and there are going to be mistakes.

But there are real opportunities out there. One of my favorites is the Better Buy Project. This is an innovative initiative by GSA, the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project, and the Industry Advisory Council. And the goal is to build a better acquisition process by tapping the wisdom of the crowds, something I had discussed last year. They are actually trying it. The Better Buy Project started in the GovLoop Acquisition 2.0 community, then evolved to a way of having people suggest ideas (hear GSA’s Mary Davie talk about it on Federal News Radio) … and it is now a wiki where you can actually help GSA build a better contract both for Data.gov and for the replacement of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service’s mainframe computers. More on this later this week, but… it is such a remarkable way of seeking people’s ideas.

We’ll be talking to the folks at GSA who are leading this project later this week. You can also read more on the Better Buy blog.

There are many examples and ideas how transparency and open government can help agencies do their jobs better. It is fun to watch!

DorobekINSIDER: Is that a ‘for sale’ sign at market research firm Input?

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Input, the market research firm, has opened the door to potential buyers, insiders and industry sources say.

While the privately held company has been in talks before, nothing panned out.

Input officials had no comment noting that Input is a privately held company and therefore, they tend not to comment on these kinds of topics. But insiders did note that “INPUT is a strong performer in a hot sector and naturally is an attractive asset.”

Input board chairman Peter Cunningham has held sales talks before, but nothing ever came of it. But Cunningham might believe now is the right time.

The shop talk comes after media giant Bloomburg purchased Eagle Eye Publishers, a much smaller market research firm, as marketing guru Mark Amtower reported. And, in fact, Bloomburg is seeming to growing its government focus. Last month, Bloomberg announced that Kevin Sheekey is rejoining the company as chairman of the government-oriented division. He will also oversee government relations and communications. It is unclear exactly what Bloomberg plans to do in the government market, but FishbowlDC has reported that the company is looking to take on the other so-called Hill rags.

I can’t imagine why one would want to jump into that already crowded market, which already has Politico, Roll Call, Congressional Quarterly, The Hill… and others like, say, the Washington Post. There is, however, much less of a focus on the business of government market. Washington Technology covers the business of government IT, but there are few others. The Washington Post has dramatically reduced its business coverage, and the Washington Business Journal, which seems like the other logical contender, has not really jumped into that space.

Who might be potential buyers?

Aside from those, 1105 Media’s Neal Vitale, owner of the 1105 Government Information Group, had said publicly that he saw market research as an important part of a government media organization to add it’s print, Web and events businesses.

Government Executive‘s research and “thought leadership” division, the Government Business Council, has been doing more business with research, but it is unclear how much GovExec’s parent, Atlantic Media, is interested in investing beyond its current holdings.

Some Input facts from the company’s Web site:

INPUT helps buyers buy and vendors sell in the government marketplace. We are committed to promoting collaboration between government and industry for the benefit of all.

Year Founded: 1974, privately held

Headquarters: Reston, Virginia

# of Employees: 160

Stay tuned.

Written by cdorobek

April 1, 2010 at 1:09 PM

DorobekINSIDER: GSA’s Johnson on Williams: ‘I’m sad to see Jim go’

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The DorobekINSIDER told you earlier that Jim Williams, the commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, is retiring after more than 30-years of government service.

GSA Administrator Martha Johnson has sent out a note to GSA staff:

Good Afternoon Everyone,

I’d like to share some news with you.

Jim Williams, FAS Commissioner, announced today that he is retiring from government after more than 30 years of service.

Though I’m sad to see Jim go, I am excited for him as he starts the next phase of his life and career.

Please join me in congratulating Jim on his retirement, and thanking him for his service to GSA and our nation.

The note he sent to FAS employees is below.

Thanks,
Martha

Written by cdorobek

March 9, 2010 at 4:07 PM

DorobekINSIDER EXCLUSIVE: GSA’s Jim Williams to retire from government after 30-plus years

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Jim Williams, the widely respected head of the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service, has told staff that he will leave government on April 3.

Williams has had a remarkable government career, most recently as the first commission of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, which was tasked with bringing together the former Federal Supply Service and Federal Technology Service. But he has also served as the director of U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program (US-VISIT) at the Homeland Security Department, and in several senior leadership posts at the Internal Revenue Service.

Williams does not have any current plans for when he leaves government, sources confirmed. He is exploring his options, insiders said.

The note Williams sent to staff today:

Today, I let Administrator Martha Johnson know that I am retiring from government service on April 3, 2010, but I am planning for my last day in the office to be March 31st.

I feel like I have been incredibly blessed and fortunate to have been able to serve our great nation for over thirty years and do so with so many people around the world that I like and respect.

I also believe our country’s future is bright because of the dedicated and fantastic people that I have had the opportunity to serve with and to have been part of teams of people, many still serving government, that work hard to deliver positive results for the American people, our military and law enforcement personnel, and all other parts of government.

For people who have recently come into government, I hope they experience and feel how tremendously fulfilling a public service can be. Across several government agencies and most recently GSA, DHS, and IRS, I know the successes that I am proud to have been a part of have all been due to great leaders and teams of people coming together from the public and private sector to best serve our country and make the world a better place.

There is no adequate way to say thank you to my family, friends around the world, and co-workers for all the support provided to me during my career, but I hope they know I am very grateful.

At this point, I do not know where I will be working after I leave government. I will see what options there are after I leave, but, wherever I end up, what does matter to me is that I want to stay in touch with friends. Thank you to you all for your friendship and support that helped make my career such a wonderful and rewarding experience.

Best wishes,

Jim Williams

Williams bio:

James A. Williams returned to the position of Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service on January 22, 2009. He was designated Acting Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration on August 30, 2008. As Acting Administrator, Williams presided over the leading acquisition agency for the federal government. He was responsible for the management of nearly 12,000 employees and more than one-fourth of the government’s total procurement dollars. As Administrator he influenced the management of $500 billion in assets including 8,600 government-owned or leased buildings. He also was steward of more than 425 historic properties and 208,000 vehicles.

During his leadership as Acting Administrator, Williams was responsible for a very successful presidential transition; and for gaining approval of the 4.5 million square foot Master Plan for the St. Elizabeths Hospital campus in Washington, DC to be the new permanent home of the Department of Homeland Security. He also provided leadership in the sustainable design of energy efficient buildings; managed various “green” initiatives that provide environmentally friendly products, services and technology to federal agencies; and continued the implementation of fuel-efficient vehicles within federal and GSA’s vehicle fleets.

Before becoming Acting Administrator, Williams served as Commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service. Here he provides strategic direction-setting, performance management and leadership for the efficient and effective program execution necessary to provide best value for the government and for taxpayers, proactive customer assistance and simplified procedures. His organization is responsible for nearly $50 billion annually in acquisition revenues covering the GSA Schedules Program, information technology, vehicles, furniture, supplies to the warfighter, property disposal, travel and transportation contracts and assisting customer agencies with life cycle acquisition support.

Prior to this, Williams served as Director of the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program (US-VISIT) at the Department of Homeland Security. Previously, he served in several executive leadership positions at the Internal Revenue Service, including Deputy Associate Commissioner for Program Management, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Procurement and later as Director of Procurement at the IRS.

Earlier in his career, Williams was director of the Local Telecommunications Procurement Division at GSA, where he was responsible for all nationwide local telecommunications purchases for the agency.

A native of Virginia, Williams earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master’s in business administration from The George Washington University.

DorobekINSIDER: Kronopolus named GSA’s assistant administrator; Lantier takes acting deputy procurement role

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The shuffling of the senior seats at the General Services Administration continues. Last week, the DorobekINSIDER told you that Tony Costa was named GSA’s associate administrator. This morning, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson announced that Cathy Kronopolus will be the GSA assistant administrator. Kronopolus has been serving as the acting chief of staff.

As acting administrator, Johnson said that Kronopolus will “play a day-to-day role of managing the front office agenda, mentor and coach executives, sort resources (people, time, knowledge) to support my primary goals, and build optimism and a culture of collaboration across leadership and explicitly modeled in my office.”

Meanwhile, Michael Robertson, GSA’s chief procurement officer, has named Rod Lantier as GSA’s acting deputy associate administrator for acquisition policy and the acting senior procurement executive. David Drabkin, of course, starts at Northrop Grumman today.

UPDATE: GSA officials tell the DorobekINSIDER that Steve Leeds, GSA’s Senior Counselor to the Administrator, is acting Chief of Staff while we move toward filling the role with a permanent Chief of Staff. That being said, there now is no GSA chief of staff — not even an acting chief of staff. Given that Johnson served as chief of staff under former GSA Administrator David Barrum, she is keenly aware of the import role that post can play in the success of the administrator — and the agency. So stay tuned.

Here is the note from Johnson sent to staff about the Kronopolus post:

Dear GSA:

Today, I am happy to announce that I have asked Cathy Kronopolus, who has been acting in the Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor roles, to remain in my office as an Assistant Administrator.

In this position, Cathy will play a day-to-day role of managing the front office agenda, mentor and coach executives, sort resources (people, time, knowledge) to support my primary goals, and build optimism and a culture of collaboration across leadership and explicitly modeled in my office.

Together, Cathy and I will create a vibrant and rejuvenated leadership cadre, organizational alignment so that GSA is “at one” with its declared strategic plan, an innovative spirit, and an ever higher level of performance supported in part by the progressive use of collaborative technologies.

I particularly appreciate the history and knowledge that Cathy brings, including her time in the Public Buildings Service, her experience working in regions and also at customer agencies. I always applaud leaders like Cathy who have personally demonstrated the willingness and interest to change and absorb new roles and challenges.

Join me in congratulating Cathy in her new role as Assistant Administrator.

Martha

Written by cdorobek

March 8, 2010 at 12:26 PM

DorobekINSIDER: Northrop makes it official: Drabkin is the new director of acquisition policy

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The DorobekINSIDER told you first that David Drabkin was retiring from government… and that he was joining Northrop, but it is now official: Drabkin will serve as Northrop Grumman’s director of acquisition policy.

From the press release:

Northrop Grumman Corporation has named David A. Drabkin director of acquisition policy for the company. Drabkin reports directly to Larry Lanzillotta,corporate vice president of customer relations.

In his new role, Drabkin will be responsible for coordinating the company’s efforts related to pending and upcoming acquisition regulations and policy at the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies. He will lead internal coordination of Congressional relations activities related to acquisition policy and reform and representing the company at numerous acquisition and related professional associations.

“The extensive acquisition expertise David Drabkin brings from his work with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), theDefense Department and the Defense Logistics Agency is critical and will greatly benefit Northrop Grumman,” said Lanzillotta.

Before joining Northrop Grumman, Drabkin served as the acting chief acquisition office/deputy chief acquisition officer and senior procurement executive for the GSA. In those two positions, he led several acquisition-based initiatives such as the Federal Acquisition Institute, Federal Procurement Data Center, Catalog of Domestic Federal Assistance and the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council. He also servedas procurement counsel to the Minority Staff of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Drabkin held several executive positions at the Defense Department including the deputy program manager for the $4.2 billion Pentagon Renovation Program. He also worked as the chief counsel for the Defense Logistics Agency. In 2009, Drabkin was presented with the Presidential Meritorious Rank Award for his strong leadership and commitment to public service.

Other awards include the Federal 100 Top Information Technology Executive Award and the Leadership Award in Acquisition & Procurement. Drabkin earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and politicalscience from Washington and Jefferson College, in Washington, Pa., anda law degree from the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Ala.

Written by cdorobek

March 4, 2010 at 2:29 PM

DorobekINSIDER EXCLUSIVE: GSA’s Drabkin to join Northrop

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The DorobekINSIDER told you last week that GSA’s deputy chief acquisition officer David Drabkin will be retiring. In fact, his last day at GSA HQ is today. Well, the DorobekINSIDER has confirmed that Drabkin will join Northrop, where he will start on March 8. We don’t yet now what his job will be.

As we said earlier, Drabkin is one of the most respected people in the government procurement community and has had a distinguished career.

Mr. Drabkin has served GSA for nearly 10 years including a tour on detail to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

He served on the Acquisition Advisory Panel (SARA Panel), Deputy Program Manager, Pentagon Renovation Program, the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition Process and Policies), Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition Reform) (ODUSD(AR)); and the Director, Regulatory Reform and Implementation, ODUSD(AR), where he served as the Project Manager for FASA Implementation.

The question buzzing around the procurement community: Who will replace Drabkin as the acting chief procurement officer. It is an important post given that the Chief Procurement Officer, Michael Robertson, who also serves as the head of GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy and the White House liason. Robertson worked for then-Senator Barack Obama as the legislative coordinator and deputy to the chief counsel. In that post, he managed the appropriations process, handled judicial nominations, and conducted political outreach to promote Obama’s legislative priorities. But he has suggested that he is not a government contracting expert — and it is not his forte. Therefore, the deputy chief procurement officer becomes very important.

In the speculation, there are a few names in the mix. If GSA officials decide to hire from within the agency — and that isn’t certain at this point, but if they decide to hire from within GSA, one of the names that is making the speculation rounds is Joseph Neurauter, who served as the chief procurement officer at HUD before rejoining GSA. The other is Al Matera, director of GSA’s Acquisition Policy Division.

There isn’t any official word yet — about an acting deputy nor how GSA plans to move forward. We’ll keep watching it.

Written by cdorobek

March 2, 2010 at 4:58 PM

DorobekINSIDER: Sen. Brown to be ranking member on contracting oversight subcommittee

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The DorobekINSIDER reported first that Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) will take over as the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ad hoc subcommittee on contracting oversight.

Brown will replace Sen. Bill Bennett (R-UT).

Brown is well known for winning the Massachusetts senate seat. But he is perhaps best know to feds because, in one of his first post-election interviews on ABC’s This Week, said that feds were overpaid.

We need to put a freeze on federal hires and federal raises because, as you know, federal employees are making twice as much as their private counterparts.

What we don’t know are his thoughts and ideas about government contracting.

The contracting oversight subcommittee was created this year at the request of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

Brown will also serve on the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees, according to the WP.

Written by cdorobek

March 2, 2010 at 3:47 PM