Industry Executive of the Year
PSC's Soloway drove acquisition reform
- By Richard W. Walker
- Oct 11, 2013
There was no question about the direction Stan Soloway’s career would take two decades ago when he found himself at the intersection of the public and private sectors. It was there that he discovered the road that led to his passion — leading the Professional Services Council and tirelessly advocating for reform in government acquisition.
In 1993, as an independent public-affairs consultant to a small trade association of federal contractors, Soloway began attending meetings of the Acquisition Reform Working Group, which represented a cross-section of the government contracting community. The experience proved to be something of a revelation.
“When the Clinton administration came in, the whole arena of acquisition reform became a major focus,” he said. “I found this nexus between the public and private sectors and the policy issues absolutely fascinating, even some of the [minutiae]. I didn’t know very much about government contracting, but I learned as I went.”
Soloway swiftly gained expertise in the nuances of government contracting, and his career took off. Just four years later, in 1997, he was offered the job of deputy undersecretary for acquisition at the Defense Department, and he served in that position until the end of President Clinton’s term. In 2001 he was named president and chief executive officer of PSC.
“Stan is an outstanding business leader and an icon in the government contracting community,” said Renny DiPentima, former president and CEO of SRA International, a leading provider of information technology services to the government.
After 12 years with Soloway at the helm, PSC has grown from 115 member companies to about 370 members, making it a relentlessly commanding voice in Washington on legislative and regulatory policy issues related to government procurement and outsourcing.
And Soloway himself is more energized than ever about transforming the partnership between government and industry.
“We’re at a point now where the government and private sector are joined at the hip, and we’re not going to turn that clock back,” he said. “The question is how we make the clock work best.”
In the last year, Soloway and PSC have led the charge for a renewed acquisition reform effort to deal with what he sees as a crisis. The latest report from PSC’s Leadership Commission states:
“Rarely, if ever, has [the government] had to contend with the kind of fiscal uncertainty and austerity we see today, while also coping with a rapidly escalating human capital crisis, a hitherto unseen pace of change in technology and diminishing public confidence. If ever there were a compelling crisis out of which lasting change was both possible and necessary, this is it.”
It’s not only the unremitting budget struggles that prevent government and industry from doing business normally. There is a looming crisis in human capital, especially among the technology and acquisition workforces, Soloway said.
At the same time, “industry itself is transforming — the rise of cloud, infrastructure as a service and consumption-based buying,” he added. “This is all a very new world. It’s going to change the structure and face of industry as well.”
But Soloway sees a silver lining: an opportunity to use the crisis to fundamentally reshape and reform the workforce and the procurement process.
Soloway’s ability to dig deep into the details of the government-industry nexus and convey penetrating insights to Washington’s power players separates him from the rest of the pack, according to DiPentima.
“His knowledge of the federal government runs deep, from his days at DOD to his leadership of PSC,” DiPentima said. “His representation on the Hill of the professional services industry is always seen as informed and balanced and, as a result, effective in representing the views of PSC members. Stan is a policy guy at heart and can think and debate with the best.
Read about more 2013 GCN Awards winners.
Richard W. Walker is a freelance writer based in Maryland.