By: Lesley Field
Lesley Field ('12) - Deputy Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
1. Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in the Federal Government?
I come from a long line of civil servants and was drawn to Federal service as a young person. My grandfather was a civil engineer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who supervised complex infrastructure projects, and my father was a Naval Officer and civil service executive who oversaw numerous public and military building projects here and abroad. Their experiences showed me the importance of - and exciting opportunities in - the career civil service.
2. Who has been a key mentor or source of inspiration for you?
My parents were both great teachers and mentors; their collective dedication to education, community service, and public responsibility was helpful in guiding my career and shaping my professional decisions.
3. What is your favorite class you have ever taken and why?
Every human capital management class I took as a student at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, which had a rigorous case study approach to solving difficult business problems, was my favorite class. In almost every instance, successful employees were the key to organizational achievement – a point that stayed with me as I embarked on a long career of change management, stakeholder engagement, and policy advocacy in acquisition. At its core, contracting is the business of government and our system is vast and complex and depends on the skills, judgment, and dedication of human beings. Prioritizing their training and development, promoting meaningful and interesting career paths, and seeking input from these frontline acquisition professionals has transformed our work. Where we once prioritized compliance, we now promote innovation. Where we once had duplicative agency solutions, we now seek to design whole of government strategies that allow our workforce to spend their time and talent on more impactful activities.
4. What advice would you give to those interested in pursuing a career in public administration?
My daughter is embarking on her Federal career and I take much pride in her having chosen public service. The Federal Government is a microcosm of this country and I tell her – and anyone else who will listen – that it can be an effective and important problem solver. The opportunity to work on challenging issues that affect millions of people exists in nearly every public organization and discipline. For example, in acquisition we develop and implement policies to increase small business participation, promote programs that support employment for persons with disabilities, and drive our supply chains to be more environmentally responsible. Seize the chance to apply your problem solving skills - someone is counting on you.
5. What area of public policy interests you the most and why?
Having grown up in the Federal contracting space, I am most interested in two areas. The first is rationalizing how we spend taxpayer dollars so that we go to market as an organized and informed entity – something everyone should expect from an organization that spends over $650 billion annually. We have done much of this through our category management efforts, which have saved taxpayers over $63 billion since the inception of the program while promoting small business participation, focusing on sustainable acquisition, and supporting other policy objectives. The second area, which brought me to OMB over 20 years ago, is the development of the acquisition workforce. When I started at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, civilian agencies acquisition professionals had disparate training requirements, little mobility, and few training dollars dedicated to their development. Now, we have the Federal Acquisition Certification (FAC) program for over a hundred thousand contracting officers, program managers, and contracting officer representatives; the FAC program is recognized by all civilian agencies, is aligned with DoD’s requirements, and ensures that this important workforce receives the training needed. Nearly 90% of our contracting professionals are certified, and we have one of the best trained, most organized workforces in government.
6. What would you currently consider the most critical challenge for public administration and why?
Awareness of what we do and why. While its origins are complex, the current distrust of government is a serious concern and one that needs our full attention. I’m often struck by how little people understand what career civil servants do and how hard they work to achieve their organization’s mission. Better storytelling, more relatable messaging, and increased exposure to public service could improve how the public perceives our important work.
7. What is your perspective on AI’s potential role in government procurement policies and do you have any concerns in that regard?
Given the highly structured nature of our work, AI is already playing an important role in improving operations and generating acquisition intelligence. For the former, AI and RPA are reducing the need for contracting professionals to execute repetitive tasks – such as administrative modifications or contract closeouts - and our community is sharing pilots and scaling successful efforts in this space. AI is also playing a role in our efforts to convert the billion bits of data we collect annually on contract transactions into acquisition intelligence so our contracting officers and program managers have much better information for their cost estimates, negotiation positions, and other important decisions.
8. What is your favorite hobby or activity that you enjoy doing in your free time?
My family and I like to travel and ski. I am also a huge fan of art history and have chased great paintings and sculptures through museums all over the world.
9. What is the best movie you have seen?
I don’t watch a lot of movies, but my favorite book is One Hundred Years of Solitude – showed me the power of the written word to capture and challenge the reader.
10. What was your dream job as a child?
I always wanted to be an archaeologist, but my dad gently persuaded me to consider business and/or government as I was not so much into the digging – he was right!
Lesley Anne Field is the Deputy Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Executive Office of the President, and is currently serving as Acting Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy. Her office is responsible for developing and implementing government wide policies to support over $650 billion in federal contracting each year. Prior to joining OMB, Lesley served as a contracting officer at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Lesley is a 2019 recipient of the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service, a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, the recipient of the Public Sector Partner of the Year award from the Professional Services Council and the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and was recognized by FCW with their President’s Award in 2017 as part of their Fed 100 program. She has also received a number of awards from FedScoop Media, including Top Women in Technology.
She received her Bachelor of Science in Commerce from the University of Virginia, her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Virginia Tech, and she completed the Senior Executive Fellows Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.