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Executive Spotlight: Tab Warlitner, Deloitte Principal, on Public Service & Federal Acquisition

Executive Spotlight: Tab Warlitner, Deloitte Principal, on Public Service & Federal Acquisition - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Executive Spotlight: Tab Warlitner, Deloitte Principal, on Public Service & Federal Acquisition - top government contractors - best government contracting eventTab Warlitner serves as a principal in Deloitte“˜s federal practice, where he leads the civilian agencies segment.

Before joining the firm in 2009, he spent 17 years with BearingPoint, most recently as a senior vice president in the firm“™s public sector business unit.

The former U.S. Air Force officer also helped create the Center for Innovation in Public Service at George Washington University“™s School of Public Policy and Public Administration.

In his interview with ExecutiveBiz, Tab describes the difference between working with members of the acquisition workforce in the DoD and civillian agencies, what he learned from his experience in the Air Force and his service work with a former Pennsylvania mining town.

ExecutiveBiz:  As principal and the leader civilian agency at Deloitte, what are your main responsibilities?

Tab Warlitner:  Well first and foremost is to make sure we deliver value to our clients and that the Deloitte civilian teams truly understand the client“™s primary issues and challenges. Also, to ensure that the solutions we provide are impactful and value-based and that they help our clients better achieve their mission goals.

Developing our team is also an important aspect of my role. Whether it“™s my fellow partners or members of our staff, we want to be sure that we have the right construct in place for development, leadership succession, and planning. It“™s important to cultivate both the current and future leaders of our firm.

Some of my other primary responsibilities include looking for new trends in the market. The civilian portfolio is fairly diverse and we want to be sure that we“™re keeping a pulse on the market and looking for future trends. Another responsibility is to define and adjust our go to market strategy and identify the solutions that we are best positioned to provide to our clients. This kind of forward thinking strategy helps us make the right decisions about the clients we serve, and help us decide which Deloitte account teams should manage the client portfolios?


ExecutiveBiz:  With sequestration looming for the DoD and civilian agencies, how is it affecting business?

Tab:  There are differing opinions about whether sequestration will happen or not. It is the cause of a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace. Projects that we thought or hoped would be started now, may be paused due to the uncertainty around sequestration.  At this time, agencies may be hesitant to start a new program because of these concerns.

We“™re  also  seeing government officials, program managers and others  more focused now on getting their multi-year funds obligated than in past years. The draft guidance  that has been disseminated through congressional hearings regarding the sequestration seems to  indicate that money which has already been obligated on a contract may not subject to being sequestered.

So clients who have those multi-year funds and programs feel like those programs will be somewhat protected. But the larger question of budget reductions is definitely causing our clients to rethink and refocus on their priorities related to their agency mission.

The projects that continue to be executed and funded are the must have, must do, high value add projects. The projects that are long-term in nature and more strategic but not necessarily critical to agency prioritizations for the next 18 to 24 months, don“™t seem to be moving forward as quickly.


ExecutiveBiz:  What are the major differences in dealing mainly with the DoD in contracts and then focusing on mainly civilian agencies?

Tab:  Civilian and Defense agencies are very different actually.  I spent quite a bit of time in the Department of Defense (DoD) on active duty and then supporting DoD as on the contract side. The people that work in the DoD agencies are very aware of their end mission. They“™re very focused on it. And I find that DoD clients have similar challenges which are all somewhat related.

In the civilian agencies the missions become extremely diverse across the government. In my role I have the opportunity to see that diversity in action, in a day I could have discussions with our about the wide range of clients for example, the FBI, USDA, HUD and NASA.  I might be visiting the FBI for instance which has its own unique set of challenges, but they are very different in scope from say the USDA which operates the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Which is significantly different that HUD who might want to discuss housing vouchers and NASA may need more information about logistics regarding the retirement of the space shuttle. So the diversity of the mission in civilian agencies is really broad and the clients have different  challenges that may not be related.

One of the other areas of differentiation is the acquisition workforce. The Department of Defense has major acquisition commands and has professional acquisition people on staff.

They buy things for a living. They“™ve gone to school for it, and they have certifications on how to run large procurements. So whether it“™s Air Force Materiel Command or Naval Air Systems Command or Naval Sea Systems Command or Army Materiel Command, when you look at the bulk of the spending that Department of Defense does, most of that comes through these large acquisition commands.

On the civilian agency side, the vast majority of the folks in the program office side aren“™t professional acquisition people. So they have a greater challenge in getting an RFP out on the street and defining their needs and objectives. It can be more difficult for them to run a source selection for instance, if they“™ve only done it once or twice, or never in their career.

It can be challenging and it can be frustrating but also it can be beneficial at times for us. Sometimes our clients in the civilian space actually act more like commercial clients.


ExecutiveBiz:  How did your time in the Air Force prepare you for being an executive in the GovCon industry?

Tab:  Prior to joining the Air Force I went to Virginia Military Institute (VMI).  After graduation, I became a commissioned officer in the Air Force.  I went through quite a few leadership development programs. Those experiences helped to develop my ability to lead other leaders. The military offered great experience in that regard and that foundation of leadership training has always been extremely helpful.

During my time In the  Air Force, I worked in Systems Command back when it was called the Acquisition Command.I had  several different assignments, all of which were acquisition related;

I had a couple jobs as an engineer, writing specifications, doing evaluations of engineering designs and production work on munitions. I worked on many program source selections, so I got to see what it was like to write RFPs and then to evaluate proposals and to go through the decision process. It“™s very beneficial to have been on that side of the fence from a technical perspective.

I also had several contracting assignments that led to courses in contracts management and contract law. I also participated in awarding contracts and performed contract administration, as well as running source selections, so I had very valuable experience on the other side of the table as an Air Force Contracting Officer.

From that experience, I know and understand how RFPs should be written and structured. I know the mistakes that I made evaluating proposals, and the mistakes I made in the source selection process. That level of hands-on experience helps me even today in coaching my team and defining strategies to win new contracts.

It really does make a difference when you understand the contracting process from the clients perspective. You know which things to fight and which things to give up on and it helps to have been on both sides of the fence.


ExecutiveBiz:  You said you“™re involved in a church group, you go on a big mission trip every year, and you“™re involved in community service. Can you tell us a little about these activities?

Tab:  My children are mostly grown. My youngest is a Senior in high school. As they were growing up I coached sports, and was very active with them.

I was a Scout leader for ten years and I coached soccer, basketball and baseball for many years.

My wife and I are very active in our church as well and one of the key activities that we“™ve taken part in over the last four years is a family mission trip.

We wanted to structure opportunities for family participation so we decided not to go to exotic jungles in South America, instead we wanted something reasonably close, and so it could be a full family mission.

We found a town in Pennsylvania which used to be a coal mining town called Mahanoy City. In the early 1900s there were about 30,000 people in the town, but now there are only a few thousand people left. Many of the residents are widows whose husbands worked in the coal mines and have since died, and the town literally is falling down.

For the last few years we“™ve taken over 100 volunteers each year to Mahanoy City for a week. We“™re totally self-contained. We take care of our food and our supplies as well as our materials.

Families that want to go, take part in rebuilding the town by doing painting and renovation.  Some of the residents are homebound so we also do visitations. There“™s also a vacation bible school during the day for the children which is run by the teenagers.

The experience allows our families to see that challenges that people are experiencing in their lives and reminds all of us how fortunate we are.

When we“™re replacing a porch normally it“™s something we could do in a day or maybe two. But, it may take three or four days to complete the porch, because we spend a lot of time sitting and visiting with the homeowner.

Many times they just want company and the chance to spend time with someone more than they want or need the home repairs. It“™s really a great experience.

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Written by David J. Barton

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