Management

Donovan talks up management in OMB confirmation hearing

Shaun Donovan

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan at his June 11 confirmation hearing to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.

If appearances are any indication, Shaun Donovan is a tech-savvy guy. The current secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget read his opening statement in his confirmation hearing from a tablet computer screen, rather than shuffling through papers.

Donovan also told the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that oversight of OMB's IT responsibilities will be a key priority.

"Our IT investments are some of the largest and most important investments that we make, and through my own experience ... some of the places where it's easiest to go wrong," he said.

At HUD, Donovan inherited a failing $100 million IT project designed to reinvent the department's financial management system. Eventually, the project was scrapped, and HUD is moving its financial management system to the Treasury's shared services offering.

"I'm a big believer that OMB can play an important role, because I've lived it," he said.

Donovan also connected the dots between tech initiatives and policy outcomes. He noted that a move by the Federal Housing Administration to adopt electronic signatures for loan documents does more than save time and money in processing. It gives borrowers extra time to review the details of their loan agreements.

A vocal proponent of President Barack Obama's data-driven management agenda, Donovan said, "I love data," at several points during the hearing.

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) both said they hope that love would express itself in implementation of the Data Act. OMB is taking a lead role in moving the government to a single standard for reporting government spending in machine-readable form.

Donovan said OMB is in the process of trying to understand what system changes and spending would be required to bring agencies into compliances. Portman noted that when he was OMB director under President George W. Bush, he was able to implement the similar Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act without much in the way of extra appropriations. He said the same could be done with the Data Act, which calls for a uniform federal financial data system by May 2017. "If you aren't committed to that time frame, it will never happen," Portman said.

Most of the committee members said former Director Sylvia Matthews Burwell was going to be a tough act to follow, especially with regard to responsiveness to questions from lawmakers. Still, Donovan appears to have an easy path to confirmation. A committee vote is not yet scheduled, but Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) promised quick action. In the meantime, Brian Deese, deputy director for budget, is acting as head of OMB.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is a staff writer covering Congress, the FCC and other key agencies. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

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Reader comments

Fri, Jun 13, 2014 Data Guy

I find Rob Portman's statements laughable. "He was able to implement the similar Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act without much in the way of extra appropriations. He said the same could be done with the Data Act, which calls for a uniform federal financial data system by May 2017." He knows better, and knows the scope of the two acts are not similar at all. The state of disparity in financial systems alone, not to mention that fact that the financial life cycle is not even fully automated in many agencies yet, means that full planning and programming to execution down to the transactional level, and the ability to track transactions back to assess planned v. total costs is definitely going to require appropriation. Or is this just a set-up to make the administration look bad, as usual?

Thu, Jun 12, 2014 Pete Seattle

Of course if Mr D had been a competent HUD Secretary maybe the confirmation would have been different-and quicker. He talks a good game but fails to carry through. Maybe as OMB director he can dislodge regulations that have been stacked up like airplanes over O'Hare airport for the past three years. Don't hold your breath.

Thu, Jun 12, 2014 Washington, DC

May be tech savvy, may know all the buzz words, may be able to read from a tablet (teleprompter anyone?) but most people at HUD believe he is an empty suit and, quite frankly, like the proverbial "emperor without any clothes". He does not accept anything contrary to what his given thoughts or ideas are, his staff is afraid to tell him the truth or bring any bad news, and he has ruined the morale at HUD (see the Employee Viewpoint Survey for the past several years). But for us, better at OMB than at HUD....

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