GSA official nominated to be federal procurement chief

The White House announced Tuesday that David Safavian, chief of staff at the General Services Administration, is President Bush's nominee to be the next federal procurement administrator.

If confirmed by the Senate, Safavian would run the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget. He would oversee the Bush administration's competitive sourcing initiative, a controversial effort to let contractors bid on tens of thousands of federal jobs.

Safavian, a lawyer and former lobbyist, has strong ties to Capitol Hill. Before joining GSA, he served as chief of staff to Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, and also has worked for former Michigan House members William Schuette and Robert Davis, both Republicans. Legislators have mounted several challenges to the job competition drive during the appropriations process.

Safavian's experience at GSA and on Capitol Hill will serve him well, said Carl DeMaio, president of the Performance Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based think tank.

Though competitive sourcing gets the most attention, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy job also requires a strong background in procurement policy, DeMaio said. Safavian "certainly has the perspective of a very key agency," on procurement-related issues, DeMaio said.

Other sources said Safavian's views on acquisition issues are not well known. "He doesn't have a lot of visibility in the procurement community," said a former high-level federal procurement official.

Hill experience is also crucial, since the new OFPP head will need to reach out to lawmakers and correct some misperceptions about competitive sourcing, DeMaio said. As part of the fiscal 2004 budget process, lawmakers have attempted to attach a series of amendments to appropriations bills modifying OMB's May revisions to Circular A-76, which governs the job competition process.

The controversy surrounding A-76 will likely turn into "a headache" for the new procurement chief, DeMaio said. "The confirmation [process] is going to be brutal for this appointment."

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