Denett's work cut out for him at OFPP

If approved by the Senate, he'd likely start with workforce training and improving relations

Educating the acquisition workforce and improving relations with both Congress and the public will likely be Paul Denett's major challenges if he is approved by the Senate as the new Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator.

But Denett will be up to the task, several observers say, because of his solid background in federal procurement and the time he has spent in the industry.

'He's got a lot of experience, he's very affable and seems to know the government and procurement matters well,' said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, a Washington industry association.

The White House 'is looking for someone who knows what's going on, rather than doing someone a political favor,' Allen said.

President Bush nominated Denett, currently vice president of contracting programs at ESI International of Arlington, Va., last month. He would replace David Safavian, who left the administration last September, just prior to his arrest on charges of obstructing a federal investigation and making false statements under oath.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which will hold a hearing to begin the confirmation process, could not at press time specify when the hearing would be held, a committee spokeswoman said.

Possible hold on vote
And at least one lawmaker, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), is threatening to place a hold on any presidential appointment because of concerns related to rebuilding parts of Louisiana that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Before joining the private sector, Denett served as senior procurement executive at the Treasury Department, where he headed the agency's Office of Procurement.
The mix of public and private experience should make a good fit for the OFPP spot, government and industry observers said.

Among Denett's top challenges will be educating and improving the skill sets of federal procurement executives, and changing what has become a highly critical and contentious environment in Congress.

Given Safavian's arrest and his alleged ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Denett is stepping into a delicate situation.

'This is a very tough procurement environment,' said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, an industry association in Arlington, Va. 'It is a negative environment. There seems to be an assumption that everyone in the business is crooked and that there's a Wild West mentality.'

Denett also will have to spearhead efforts to better educate the government's overworked acquisition workforce, said contracting lawyer Joseph Petrillo of the Washington firm Petrillo and Powell, and a GCN columnist.

'He's got to face the problem of a procurement workforce that is being asked to do too much with too little,' Petrillo said.

GCN assistant managing editor for news Jason Miller contributed to this report.

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