Call it an aha moment. Upon learning the Professional Services Council tapped as its CEO the Pentagon's assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, David Berteau, I thought quite simply – well that makes sense. This is someone who has a long history maneuvering the intricacies of government acquisition, who spent years and multiple stints at the Pentagon, and who has directly worked for contractors as well as respected think tank organizations.
He gets it from all angles. That's an attribute that his predecessor Stan Soloway held as well, and was perhaps the most difficult but important one to replicate. People will listen to what he has to say because he's not a wonk. He's speaking from experience.
Selfishly speaking, I was happy to hear about the choice because, well – I've worked with Berteau over the course of my journalism career. And as CEO of PSC, he'll be as good to know now as he was in the past.
I spoke to Berteau soon after this appointment was announced about his decision to take the helm of PSC, and his decision to end his second run at the Pentagon. Here's what he told me.
So what about the PSC position appealed to you?
All of my experience with PSC has shown it's a top notch organization, and well run. That made it an attractive option from the minute I learned Stan was leaving. I worked with this organization for a long time. It's the association that matters in this business.
And leaving the Pentagon? Why now?
There is no greater privilege or honor than to have the job I have in the Pentagon. I was not looking to leave at all. But this is an opportunity that only comes around once every 15 or 20 years. It's a lot of heartfelt regret for leaving the Pentagon. But this is such a good opportunity. It's important.
The need for the government to achieve its missions, and the degree that it absolutely relies on the capabilities and contributions from the private sector to so – those are hard things to do. There are significant challenges that create a need for really good analysis and advocacy.
You've worked on all sides of this market. Talk to me about the state of collaboration between government and private sector.
That's one of the critical issues – fostering the relationship between the government and the industry that supports it. Government has to comply with all of the rules and regulations necessary to protect the interests of the taxpayer. But at the same time, it has to be collaborative enough at the front end to establish requirements, to make sure their executable. There needs to be an open dialogue. The important role of PSC is to foster that dialogue and participate.
Did the fact that this administration is well into its final year factor into your decision to move on?
The timing is what the timing is. And the calendar is what the calendar is. It was a hard call. I've been through several transitions before. You have to build into your career plans a fair amount of flexibility. I have in previous transitions stayed on for long periods, and in others moved on quickly. You prepare either way. I think the government is going to continue to require the capabilities that PSC members provide every day regardless who wins the election.
The reality is that the government user – military and federal – is product agnostic, network agnostic. It's just about, 'how can I get the information I need.' That's what matters. To make that possible, to help all sides get there – that's absolutely valuable.
Jill Aitoro was editor of Defense News. She was also executive editor of Sightline Media's Business-to-Government group, including Defense News, C4ISRNET, Federal Times and Fifth Domain. She brought over 15 years’ experience in editing and reporting on defense and federal programs, policy, procurement, and technology.