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Contractors Bidding Davis a Fond Farewell

By Kim Hart
Monday, November 10, 2008

For government contractors, the election means saying goodbye to a longtime advocate.

After 14 years representing Virginia's 11th Congressional District, which includes Fairfax County's bastion of federal contractors, Republican Rep. Tom Davis is retiring. His departure leaves a void for many executives who have relied on Davis to look out for their companies' interests.

"He understood the industry, but at the same time, he was a moderate politician and a steady influence," said William C. Hoover, chief executive of American Systems.

Hoover met Davis in 1980 at a company that has become part of Northrop Grumman. "He put a very positive face on the industry . . . and let people know that folks in the private sector weren't going to run away when the going got tough."

Davis, a lawyer, was elected in 1994, as the government was starting to rely more heavily on contractors. With leadership roles in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he was known among local executives for going to bat for contractors and holding them to high standards.

"There are some bad apples, so he chastised those who weren't doing the right things, but he rewarded with his support those of us who actually made a contribution to the government," said Paul V. Lombardi, former Dyncorp chief executive.

Although contractors express admiration for Davis, he has been criticized by government advocates as being too chummy with the industry and not administering meaningful oversight of procurement.

Davis's successor, Democrat Gerald E. Connolly, is also an industry insider. He has served as chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for the past five years and currently works part time as vice president of community relations for contracting firm SAIC.

"He's got some big shoes to fill," said Bob Dinkel, president of Fed Results in Herndon.

Donna G. Morea, chairwoman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and president of CGI, said she hopes Connolly will follow Davis's lead in forging relationships with fellow Virginia Reps. Frank R. Wolf (R) and James P. Moran Jr. (D), who also play integral roles in representing the contracting community on Capitol Hill.

Connolly started his government contracting career as the head of SRA International's Washington office before moving to SAIC six years ago. He said federal IT contracting is the economic engine of his new district.

"That's our industry, those are our jobs," he said.

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