After Angela B. Styles left her job as the federal government's top procurement official two years ago, she soon pulled the kind of about-face seldom seen in a White House known for the loyalty of its political appointees.
Styles was hired on as a consultant to a federal employees union that was among the most strident critics of the Bush administration's competitive sourcing initiative. Styles, now a lawyer in private practice, had played a lead role at the Office of Management and Budget in rewriting the federal rules that govern the initiative, which requires federal employees to compete with contractors for their jobs.
It was a surprise to some that she sided with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) on the matter of whether employees who lose out to private contractors ought to be able to appeal such decisions to the Government Accountability Office and the federal courts. The move hurt Styles's relationship with some of her former colleagues and with some members of the contractor community. And, she says, it may be one reason the OMB's ethics office later issued a revised opinion that more tightly restricts her ability to represent clients before government agencies on matters involving competitive sourcing.
Styles says she has no regrets. She still supports competitive sourcing "100 percent" and says she never advocates positions as a consultant that contradict those she took as the administrator for federal procurement policy.
"There certainly seemed to be ramifications for working with the AFGE," Styles said. "I knew full well that that was a risk. It just seemed to me that if you believe in something and you espouse it, that you should remain consistent. And I actually do think it's a good thing when you can reach agreement with somebody who you are generally diametrically opposed to. More people should do it."
Styles, a government contracts attorney at the law firm of Miller & Chevalier, says she thought unions were "evil" when she joined the OMB in 2001. But she tried to keep an open door, and an open mind, and in tangling with federal employees unions came to respect those on the other side of the competitive sourcing debate, even if she seldom agreed with them. When she left the government, she had lunch with some of them and realized that on a few issues they could work together.
"Actually, I think it's a great thing that a conservative Republican and a union could actually agree on something and come together," Styles said. "I generally just liked the concept, although I realize it bothers a lot of other people."
-- Christopher Lee