TechAmerica let go senior vice president for public sector Mike Hettinger and is putting its government practice in the hands of consultants, according to multiple industry sources.
An internal email to TechAmerica members from Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, confirmed Hettinger was leaving.
“We are grateful to Mike for his expertise, professionalism and commitment to TechAmerica and the public sector companies that we serve. He was instrumental in helping us through our initial transition and we wish him the best,” said the email, which was obtained by Federal News Radio. But the decision to dismiss Hettinger comes only nine months after the trade association made a big splash to bring him in as an effort to rebound from a tumultuous fall when four top executives abandoned the organization to begin a new one with the Information Technology Industry Council.
Hettinger, a well-known and respected government acquisition and technology expert, was supposed to bring stability and give high-dues-paying contractors a sense of the future. But instead, over the last nine months, sources say CompTIA, which bought TechAmerica in May, kept redirecting funds and resources away from the public sector practice.
When contacted, Hettinger declined to comment on the situation at TechAmerica at this time.
Steve Ostrowski, director of Corporate Communications for CompTIA, said in an email to Federal News Radio that they will not comment on a personnel matter.
Sources say Hettinger received his walking papers Monday.
CompTIA announced Tuesday that Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners and the former executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement, and Bill Greenwalt, a visiting fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, have been brought in to help oversee the organization in the interim.
“They will be ensuring that the day-to-day activities of our public sector practice continue seamlessly,” said Thibodeaux in his email to members. “They also will be reaching out to TechAmerica members to start a full-throated process of assessment and how we can identify greater opportunities and possibilities to serve the industry.”
These major changes also come about six weeks before the 50th Vision Federal Market Forecast conference that TechAmerica holds every year.
“CompTIA promised back in May that we would continue the programs of TechAmerica and look for opportunities to make those offerings even better. Since then we’ve delivered on the promise of advancing our members’ public sector agenda,” Ostrowski said in the email. “We’re building our association through a methodical and comprehensive approach. The additions of Larry Allen and Bill Greenwalt — two preeminent experts in the public sector field with more than 40 years of experience within government procurement. Their experience and knowledge will help guide our decision-making as we grow the team and infrastructure necessary to provide an unmatched public sector offering to our members.”
Allen said his goal is to stabilize and move TechAmerica forward, and will not advocate to Congress or anyone else on behalf of the association.
“I’m there more as a business process person as one of things they are looking for is my 20 years in association management,” Allen said. “Bill and I are committed to working on this project, no matter how long it takes. I hope it ends with a more permanent management team and a business model that is sustainable and helps it grow.”
The move to get rid of Hettinger and bring in consultants, however, isn’t sitting well with TechAmerica members and other federal community observers.
“CompTIA is not interested in the public sector. It looks like they were buying TechAmerica for its mailing list and are not interest in the other issues,” said an industry executive, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “Firing Mike indicates that. And I think hiring two consultants signals to the world that their core mission has changed and they’ve decided to go in different direction. This is a competitive business and companies will not ante up for a group that is not 100 percent committed for lobbying and public policy.”
A second industry executive said there are several associations managed by consultants, but those that go in this direction tend not to be member driven or lobby/educate Congress.
“If you are trying to rebuild an organization that has been struggling for several years, it sends a weird message that you are trying to focus on public policy,” the executive said.
The first executive said it was sad to see what CompTIA is doing to with TechAmerica because they were a significant player on technology issues over the last 40 years.
Sources say the lack of support for the public sector business got worse over the last few months. Hettinger’s dismissal makes five people who left the public sector practice and weren’t replaced. The latest besides Hettinger was Scott Bousum, the procurement policy director who resigned in August to start his own consulting firm, according to his LinkedIn page.
Additionally, sources say the TechAmerica public policy shop started with eight people in May when the merger happened and now they are down to fewer than three people, and two consultants.
Additionally, TechAmerica’s membership has seen a steady decrease over the last year or more with roughly 15 to 30 companies not renewing. Most of those companies, sources say, are small, but several of the larger ones aren’t expected to renew in the coming year or haven’t renewed over the previous year.
“Right now it’s a tough business model to pay a trade association a flat fee with the expectation you will get a certain service, and if you look at where the success is showing up at trade associations, it’s not all encompassing associations. It’s people with specific missions,” another industry source said. “CompTIA has a lot of money and whether that is set aside to invest in the public sector is not clear.”
Ostrowski pushed back against criticism that CompTIA and TechAmerica aren’t focused on the public sector.
“As the activities of the past 4-1/2 months clearly demonstrate, we are 100 percent committed to serving the traditional public sector member company. Larry and Bill represent another investment in the public sector and in the organization as whole,” Ostrowski said.