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April 8, 2008
 
       
 
 

OLGA!


 

April's been a big month in Olga Grkavac's 26 year career with the Information Technology Association of America: one of tech's leading lobbyists, she's just watched ITAA merge with two other trade groups and add 30% more members. Now representing 350  tech companies like Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, and IBM, she's ITAA's strong #2 on the front lines of policy, making sure members get their fare share of contracting bucks. We stopped by her Rosslyn office to get to know more, including how to pronounce her name.  (GER-ka-vats. She gets her consonant-heavy last name from her Montenegrin dad; the original would be in Cyrillic.  Don't worry, everyone just knows her as Olga.)

 
 

ITAA president Phil Bond just this morning out in San Francisco at the famed RSA Info-Sec conference announced the latest merger—with 80 corporate members of the Computer Security Industry Association; last week, they also merged with the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association. Phil's had a vision of consolidation since taking over 18 months ago: The former Bush Under Secretary of Commerce and Hewlett Packard DC office head felt there had become too many IT associations, too many dues, competing operations, and voices.  GEIA was the government arm of the Electronics Industry Alliance, and when former Rep. Dave McCurdy stepped down it was almost like Yugoslavia losing its cohesion, and GEIA was ripe for reattaching elsewhere—to use a metaphor Olga might well recognize.)  GEIA lacked a policy arm which ITAA provides, but has a famous Visions program where they interview 400 government officials on budget trends and hold an annual conference.

 

 

Here's a shocker: Olga doesn't have a Blackberry, despite continual promises to staff. She's busy enough to need it, in overdrive working Capitol Hill to clear contractors' bum raps. Congress seems intent on punishing everyone, she says, for a few bad apples that made headlines during Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war.  Some recent battles: bills to expand the role of Inspector Generals without giving adequate resources for their targets to respond, databases that publish unverified allegations of contractor abuse, and the scope of the False Claims Act; not to mention Senator Grassley's pending law that would withhold 3% of every government contract for potentially unnecessary tax payments. Tomorrow her monthly procurement policy committee meets with Justice's Fraud and Abuse task force. "Every time you think you have everything under control, Congress surprises you," she explains.

 

 

Olga goes to her Ocean City Beach house that she purchased five years ago about three weekends out of four—well, maybe more likely when it looks like this, rather than the dead of winter.  She has lots of friends come by; she says she plies them with drinks to coax them to cook. Her favorite, if you want to get invited:  Risotto a la Milanese.  (Olga was actually born in Italy of an Italian mom.)

 
 
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