Brooks brought competition to federal IT procurement

'These people have met the challenges and improved the ability of our decision-makers,' Brooks says.

In the mid-1960s, Jack Brooks, then a congressman from Texas, saw the future in technology. He also saw the need for competitive bids.

He recounted that the government at that time leased almost all of its computers from IBM Corp. Brooks recommended the government set specifications and put the work up for competition.

'What we did with the Brooks Act was open up the government market to all these business people,' he said. 'Now we have seen a tremendous industry develop.'

Brooks, the 80-year-old former chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, used a still-sharp tongue and spirited wit in accepting Post Newsweek Tech Media's award as civilian executive of the last 20 years.

'I feel proud to see all these people making more money than I ever imagined, and their success is my reward,' said Brooks, who many consider the father of modern procurement. 'I wanted the government to be on the leading edge of technology, and it is.'

The Brooks Act of 1965 mandated procurement competition, lowest-price bidding and centralized management of IT. The act played a large role in shaping the IT industry and spurring innovative technologies at agencies.

'These people have met the challenges and improved the ability of our decision-makers,' he said. 'Computers and technology have helped the economy grow exponentially.'

While procurement reform of the 1990s repealed much of what the Brooks Act established, the act set a baseline for government procurement and opened the federal market for tens of thousands of companies.

'I never thought the Brooks Act would have had such an impact,' he said. 'I don't think Congress got rid of the Brooks Act, they really just enhanced it.'

Brooks, now retired in Beaumont, Texas, served 42 years in the House and also chaired the Judiciary Committee. He introduced the Government Paperwork Reduction Act and legislation to establish the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

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