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OMB competitive sourcing chief to step down

Angela Styles, the administration's point-person for competitive sourcing-President Bush's most controversial government reform initiative-is stepping down from her post as federal procurement administrator.

Styles confirmed she would leave the Office of Management and Budget on Sept. 15 to become a partner at Miller & Chevalier, a Washington law firm that specializes in contract law. She practiced law at the firm before working for the Bush administration.

"I am resigning effective Sept. 15 and going back to my old law firm to practice law," she said Thursday. "I've been in my position almost two and a half years, and it has been a lot of hard work, and it's taken a lot of energy."

Styles cited a desire to practice law and to spend more time with her family as reasons for her departure. "I love practicing law, and I've always missed it since I've been doing policy," she said. "They've got a very good quality of life [at Miller & Chevalier] as compared to almost three years of not as good a quality of life here."

Styles took office in the fall of 2001 with a mandate to implement the president's campaign promise to let private firms bid on at least half of all "commercial" jobs in government-425,000 jobs in all. At the time, only the Defense Department was holding significant numbers of public-private job competitions. Styles directed most civilian agencies to set up competitive sourcing programs, and she led a rewrite of the government's job competition rules, contained in OMB Circular A-76.

"I've made a lot of progress with most of the agencies, and we've gotten a new circular out," she said.

Styles was the public face for an initiative that has been widely criticized by federal employee unions and some members of Congress. The effort is also unpopular with rank-and-file federal workers. But Styles was able to maintain good relations with federal union leaders. "You need to always have an open door," she said. "[Union leaders] are never going to walk out of my door and say we love competitive sourcing, but they'll say that she listens to us," she said.

John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, complimented Styles. "While we rarely agreed with Ms. Styles, we did appreciate the access she gave AFGE," he said. "She had a difficult job and answers to officials who have, for all intents and purposes, declared war on federal employees."

Styles acknowledged that competitive sourcing is at a "critical junction," as she prepares to depart. Congress is trying to stop competitions at several agencies, including the National Park Service, and the competition drive faces administrative hurdles as well. The Veterans Affairs Department, the largest civilian agency, has halted almost all of its competitions because of legal concerns. The Army, which launched its huge "Third Wave" competition initiative last fall, is waiting for a new service secretary before proceeding with its initiative.

"You have a lot of agencies that are moving forward aggressively, and you have other agencies that are struggling with the initiative, trying to decide how to go forward, and you're getting a lot of congressional pressure," she said.

As federal procurement administrator, Styles focused on contract bundling issues and purchase card abuse. She also encouraged procurement officials to focus on "acquisition basics," a call some procurement experts took as a criticism of the procurement reforms of the 1990s. "I think there's a lot of work still be to done," she said. "There is still not a lot of oversight in some areas of our contracting system, and I think it will haunt us."

Styles' deputy, Associate Administrator of Federal Procurement Jack Kalavritinos, left OMB last month to be White House liaison to the Labor Department.

Styles said career OMB professional Robert Burton would serve as acting administrator for federal procurement after she leaves. Clay Johnson, OMB Deputy Director for Management, will continue to lead efforts to implement the administration's management agenda, she said.