Two Procurement Giants

John Cibinic shaped the contracting field and Greg Macfarlan helped people understand it.

The field of government contracting has lost two of its architects and longtime leaders. John Cibinic Jr., who died in August at 75, was professor emeritus at The George Washington University Law School and co-creator of the school's procurement law program. William Gregor "Greg" Macfarlan, who died in October at 77, was a consultant who worked closely with federal contracting employees. Both men dedicated their lives to teaching.

Cibinic helped shape the federal contracting world with fellow GW professor Ralph C. Nash Jr. They met in the 1950s when they worked as contract negotiators at the Navy's former Bureau of Aeronautics and attended the law school at night. Later, they both joined the GW faculty and founded the Government Procurement Law Program.

"When we began teaching, there weren't any books [on government contracting laws]. . . so we published books ourselves," says Nash, who is now retired. In 1966, they co-authored Federal Procurement Law, and went on to write books on the formation of government contracts, competitive negotiation, contract administration and other topics. Cibinic was particularly esteemed for his legal analysis of cost issues. At the time he and Nash began teaching, the Cold War and President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society were igniting tremendous growth in the federal procurement field, and their books became bibles.

Cibinic was a tough teacher. James F. Nagle, a lawyer and author of A History of Government Contracting (The George Washington University, 1999), recalls having Cibinic as his thesis adviser in the 1980s. "He was very demanding. . . . I'd learn a lot, but he would be like, 'You need to rewrite this.' " Tributes from former students published in the Public Contract Law Journal late last year show that those high standards helped mold successful and loyal procurement specialists.

In his teaching and writing, Cibinic emphasized integrity and fairness in federal procurement. In one of his last contributions to The Nash & Cibinic Report, a monthly Thomson/West publication, he wrote: "Cutting corners by failing to follow the rules might seem to be an attractive way to get things done, but such practices are bound to be found out and are likely to haunt those involved." He urged people not to blame only contracting officials when a procurement goes wrong, but emphasized that everyone involved shares responsibility.

Macfarlan, a leading advocate of performance-based contracting, was a senior research fellow at LMI Government Consulting, a not-for-profit organization, and former president of the National Contract Management Association, an industry group. Both organizations are based in McLean, Va.

Since the early 1990s, Macfarlan taught thousands of federal procurement employees about performance-based contracting-in which agencies specify their desired outcomes instead of the specific services they want-as well as other contracting methods. He also lectured in Eastern Europe and the Middle East on implementing procurement systems.

His classes often were organized around case studies, and participants were positioned into types of groups to keep classes interesting, says Louis Gaudio, founder and chief executive of the Reston-based consultancy Sterling Heri-tage Corp. "He would prepare on the plane and in the morning would come in all fired up to teach," says Gaudio, who often taught with Macfarlan.

Macfarlan supported many of the acquisition reforms in the 1990s, which streamlined the purchasing process and in some cases made it similar to commercial sector practices. While he was teaching federal employees how to understand those changes, Macfarlan advanced the concept that spending of the public's money should be transparent, says Craig Webster, a research fellow at LMI.

Macfarlan mentored his younger colleagues outside the classroom as well. Neal J. Couture, now executive director of the National Contract Management Association, was a volunteer there during the 1990s, when Macfarlan served as president. Once, while the association was dealing with financial problems, Couture and Macfarlan disagreed on how to move forward. Couture received a handwritten note in the mail from Macfarlan. As Couture remembers, it read: "If you have conviction in your beliefs, stick to them, and sooner or later people will come to respect you."

Couture says Macfarlan's legacy resides more in people's minds than in the public spotlight: "[Macfarlan] wasn't out there changing the face of the world. He was interpreting it and helping others understand it."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec