House legislation puts chief architect role in limbo

A little-noticed provision in a report on a House spending bill calls for eliminating the position of chief architect in the Office of Management and Budget.

The provision is tucked away in the House's Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill, which controls OMB's funds.

The job of chief architect has been vacant since Bob Haycock stepped down in April. Richard Brozen, an employee on loan from NASA, has served as de facto architect since Haycock's departure. The office has no permanent staff.

A House staff member explained that the report is not passing judgment on the need for a chief architect. "The question we were asked to answer is, 'Are we going to get a reasonable return on the investment from having a program office turning the lights on and paying the expenses for one person to do this?' " the staffer said. "Whatever this office is supposed to be

doing, they certainly can't do it with one detailee."

Haycock said that during his time at OMB he had planned to add two or three permanent staff members. "It's kind of a juggling act — at least it was when I was there — to try to get money to fund the contractor, to get money for the detailees" and for permanent positions, he said.

Improving relations with Congress was another item on his to-do list, Haycock said. "We had concluded we had to work to do up on Capitol Hill, especially with the appropriations committees," he said. "We had not done as good a job as we could have, and should have, to build that understanding."

The Senate's version of the appropriations bill does not include a provision for eliminating the chief architect position. That bill cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee Sept. 14 but hasn't been voted on by the full Senate. Congress is in recess until after the November elections.

Whether the House language will survive the conference process is anybody's guess. "We're going to press our case and try to get the Senate to take it," the House staffer said.

Congressional observers point out that agency officials are not compelled to follow advice included in legislative branch reports, though they generally tend to do so to avoid infuriating lawmakers, who hold the purse strings.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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