A Critic in the Administration

'It Was My Job to Maintain the Integrity'

Friday, July 28, 2006

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and his staff have worked closely with corporations and their lobbyists to help write federal procurement legislation.

Davis said the effort is intended to streamline contracting and make it more efficient. But some procurement experts and federal investigators said the legislation, called the Services Acquisition Reform Act, contains provisions that would loosen federal oversight on contracts and allow practices that are susceptible to abuse and fraud.

Among those opposed was the Bush administration's top procurement official, Angela B. Styles, the former chief of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget. Styles, a politically connected corporate lawyer and Bush loyalist from Texas, thought Davis's proposals would be costly and overly favorable to businesses.

In a series of speeches and testimony on Capitol Hill, Styles criticized some of the proposals, including one that would allow contractors to determine how much they were saving the government in costs and then share in those savings.

On May 3, 2002, Styles e-mailed her boss, then-OMB chief Mitchell E. Daniels Jr.: "David Addington [then Vice President Cheney's chief counsel] probably did the best job of summarizing Mr. Davis' legislation. . . . 'I hear the whosh of taxpayer dollars out the window.' The bill is not fiscally responsible and cannot be supported in its current form."

She described 13 of the legislation's 29 provisions as "problematic" and said they would result in "policy changes that the administration cannot support." Among them: a plan to allow more contractors to bill the government for their "time and materials" with no fixed cap on the total amount.

While some of the provisions have been adopted, Davis continues to work on winning approval for the others.

On Sept. 4, 2003, Styles resigned and returned to practicing corporate law for a private firm.

Davis said Styles's stance was not well-considered.

"Our clashes with Angela Styles were very clear from Day One," Davis recalled. "We sat down with her two or three times, and she just was not getting any adult supervision at OMB. I don't think they had any idea of what was going on."

Styles said in a recent interview that she raised legitimate questions.

"It was my job to maintain the integrity of the procurement system, and I had the support of Mitch [Daniels] and the president to do the right thing," Styles said. "Integrity came first and foremost."

Daniels, now the Republican governor of Indiana, called Styles "a formidable and very well-versed adversary" for Davis.

"She was getting plenty of supervision," Daniels said. "If Tom had a problem with Angela, I suppose it was because she understood the issues too well."

-- Scott Higham and Robert O'Harrow Jr.

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