Dr. Michael Eric Wooten was appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the fifteenth Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy. Previously while serving as Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education, he participated as a key leader in the President's national apprenticeship initiative, criminal justice reform, and other domestic policy initiatives.
Previously, Dr. Wooten served as the Deputy Chief Procurement Officer for the District of Columbia government. He also served as the Chief Learning Officer (CLO) for the District of Columbia’s Office of Contracting and Procurement. As CLO, he designed and implemented a competency-based certification program for the District’s contract specialists. Dr. Wooten is the former Chairman of the Board for Northern Virginia Community College.
Prior to joining the District’s Office of Contracting and Procurement, Dr. Wooten served for ten years in various academic posts at Defense Acquisition University. Chief among these posts, he served as a professor of contract management, deputy department chair, and special assistant to the President of Defense Acquisition University. Dr. Wooten is a U.S. Marine veteran (1982 - 2003). He has commanded a 1,200 Marine unit and is a veteran of Afghanistan.
Dr. Wooten first earned an associate’s degree from Georgia Perimeter College before earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Chapman University. He also holds master’s degrees from Norwich University (leadership and organizational management), the Naval Postgraduate School (acquisition and contract management), and the George Washington University (education and human development). He earned his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in higher education management.
Here is a recent interview with Dr. Wooten:
1. How did you get involved in public service?
Initially, I hoped to become an astronaut through the world of Marine Corps aviation, so I became a Marine Air Traffic Controller. After a few years, I realized that I would not go into space. I wanted to continue being a Marine, so I served as a Supply Officer. I cultivated a passion for educational leadership once I left the Marine Corps. I uncovered career and volunteer opportunities where I could serve the public alternating between educator and procurement executive.
2. Which of the Academy’s 12 Grand Challenges resonates most with you?
Grand Challenge #2: Modernize and reinvigorate Public Service.
3. Reflecting on your career thus far, is there a highlight, a greatest accomplishment or a funny story you’d like to share?
I experienced a couple of extremely meaningful and memorable career moments. First in April 2002, the Sultan Razia Girls School in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, reopened after work was completed on a contract that I signed. I walked with a group of soldiers down an isle formed by thousands of girls who were returning to school after years of being barred from education under the Taliban. Thousands of young Afghani girls welcomed us throwing rose pedals at our feet. Second, on September 4, 2019, I was sworn in to be Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy. My church allowed me to swear in on a Bible purchased for our church by George Washington. I was “verklempt” in the presence of that Bible.
4. What advice would you give someone wanting to start a career in public service?
First, I would say remember this old adage when you consider a career helping people: “Feed a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” With that in mind, realize that it’s okay if you want to teach a man to fish, and it’s equally okay if you just want to feed him. Then, understand the local, state, and federal policies that influence your sector of public service. Remember that changing jobs can be beneficial, and be willing to move for growth opportunities – not just for more pay. Lastly, save your money so that you can afford to do what you love. If you don’t have to go where the money is, then you are more likely to go where the need is.
5. What was the best trip you’ve ever taken?
On December 21, 1983, I took a Military “hop” home for Christmas aboard an Aerial Refueler. During the flight, I saw a flight of six F-16s engage in a refueling mission over the snowcapped grand Canyons. I was able to lay in the rear cockpit where I could see the pilots’ eyes during the refueling mission.
6. What was the last book you read or one that you would recommend?
I just bought The Five Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon by Ashton Carter.
7. Do you have a favorite podcast, journal, newspaper, or other kind of media?
I subscribe to the Chronicles of Higher Education, the Wall Street Journal, Contract Management, and Proceedings. Proceedings is quite interesting.
8. What do you work toward in your free time?
I dedicate most of my free time to family, friends, and a fraternal organization that focuses primarily on providing educational opportunities. I really enjoy serving on boards; however, my Senate-confirmed post presently prohibits my serving on any boards. I hope to resume board work after my service in this post is complete.