What has been the most rewarding experience in your career so far?
Without question, working at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was my most rewarding professional experience. OFPP and OMB are offices within the Executive Office of the President at the White House. Having worked for many years in the Department of Defense, I was not very familiar with the functions and responsibilities of OMB. But I quickly learned that the small number of employees at OMB play a critical and influential role in the management and operation of the federal government. For example, OMB has enormous influence over agency budgets and government-wide management initiatives. Working at OMB provided me with an unparalleled opportunity to learn how public policies and agency budgets are developed. Additionally, at OFPP, I had a unique opportunity to influence the operation and improvement of the federal procurement system. OFPP is responsible for issuing government-wide procurement policies and promulgating the government’s acquisition regulations. The office also plays a key role in advocating for acquisition reform legislation and working with Congress. For an acquisition professional, having an opportunity to work at OFPP is invaluable.
What encouraged you to pursue a public service career?
While in law school, I gained an understanding of the importance of public service and the broad and rewarding opportunities a public service career offers someone entering the workplace. I never anticipated that I would end up as a federal procurement professional. Still, my first job was as a government contracts attorney for the Defense Logistics Agency, which is a major procurement agency within the Department of Defense (DoD). I quickly gained an appreciation for the variety of work assignments and significant responsibilities I had as an entry-level attorney. As a result, I ended up pursuing a public service career and retired from the federal government after 30 years of service. I am very thankful for my federal career and the professional relationships I developed while working at DoD and OMB.
What have you enjoyed most about your second career in the private sector?
Currently, I am working as a government contracts partner with the Crowell & Moring law firm in Washington, DC. Crowell & Moring has one of the largest and most highly rated Government Contracts Groups in the United States. I have had the good fortune of working with some very capable attorneys and clients who do business with the federal government. In this regard, I have assisted clients in navigating the maze of federal procurement regulations and solving some challenging contract issues. Importantly, I have been able to effectively support clients because of my 30 years of federal procurement experience and the professional relationships I developed while working in the federal government.
In your view, what is the greatest challenge facing public service today?
The most significant challenge is attracting entry-level professionals to pursue a public service career. For example, younger professionals are not entering the federal workforce at the same rate as they did 30 years ago. This has happened for several reasons, including the ever-growing disparity between federal and private sector compensation. Nevertheless, young professionals should try to gain at least some experience working in the public sector. Even if for just a few years, this experience will be invaluable and give them skills that can be easily applied to private sector careers. In many cases, public sector experience will give young professionals an advantage if they seek a career in the private sector.
Do you have a specific goal or objective for this year and 2024?
Not particularly, except I plan to stay active. I greatly enjoy the friendships I developed during my professional career and want to stay engaged with the federal acquisition community. I hope to continue to contribute to the understanding and improvement of our federal procurement system.
What is your favorite activity during your free time?
I enjoy traveling with my wife of 41 years and spending time with our four children.
Rob Burton is a partner in the Government Contracts Group at the Crowell & Moring law firm in Washington, DC. He is a nationally recognized leader in federal procurement who assists government contractors with the complex and rule-driven procurement process. He also assists contractors with their marketing strategies for selling to federal agencies. He also provides expert witness testimony in arbitration and federal court cases, resolves contract issues with senior agency procurement officials, and represents contractors and non-profit associations seeking procurement policy changes in Congress.
Rob is a 40-year veteran of federal procurement law and policy development. Before entering the private sector, Rob completed a 30-year career with the federal government. He served in the President's Executive Office as the Acting and Deputy Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), the nation's top career federal procurement official. At OFPP, he prepared policy positions and worked with House and Senate committees to develop acquisition reform legislation. He also served as the principal spokesperson for government-wide acquisition initiatives and chaired the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council and Chief Acquisition Officers (CAO) Council. Before joining OFPP, Rob spent over twenty years as a senior acquisition attorney with the Department of Defense, resolving high-profile contract disputes and pursuing remedies in procurement fraud cases.
Rob has received numerous awards during his career, including his election as a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and the National Contract Management Association (NCMA). He has also received the Secretary of Defense’s Exceptional Civilian Service Award and the Federal 100 Award. He also served on the NCMA Board of Directors, the governing Council of the American Bar Association’s Section of Public Contract Law, and the Court of Federal Claims Advisory Council. Rob is currently a Director of the Procurement Round Table and a George Mason University Center for Government Contracting Advisory Board member.
Rob graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law (J.D.) and the College of William and Mary (B.A., Government). He is also a Senior Executive Fellows Program graduate at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.