OMB nominee gets easy first hearing

Sylvia Matthews Burwell - Photo Courtesy of the Walmart Foundation

Sylvia Mathews Burrell, the nominee to take over as director of the Office of Management and Budget, had a congenial confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on April 9.

Burrell, the president of the Walmart Foundation, served as deputy OMB director from 1998 to 2001. She appeared to have bipartisan support from the committee, engaging in pleasant conversation and fielding generally easy questions.

"To be head of the Office of Management and Budget at this particular time in our nation's history is an extraordinary position," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) in introducing the nominee. "We're going to be debating the best course for our country's future. It's going to take the wise, wise hand."

"There must be some character flaw that she wants the job, but other than that I think that she is very well qualified," said Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.). "This is an excellent choice and I wish her well. Maybe before she leaves she could get us some discounts at Wal-Mart."

During the period for questions, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) reminded Burwell that Congress's expectation will be for the OMB director to take a leadership role in addressing the nation's financial matters and asked if she felt confident in her ability to do so. Burwell said she would expect to be a key member of the president's budget team.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) asked about OMB's management function, honing in on the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires an agency regulatory agenda to be published in the spring. "Last year, the spring agenda never showed up," he said.

Burwell said she did not know why the agenda had not been sent last year, but hedged from meeting Portman's request to commit to delivering the annual document, because, she said, she did not know why it had not been.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, (R-NH), asked about a Government Accountability Office report on duplication of IT investments across government and how Burwell would work toward achieving the goals GAO laid out. Burwell responded with several examples.

"We need to move from the hundreds of data centers we've already gotten rid of to hundreds more," she said. "I think we need to think about the IT part of the role of OMB in a couple of different ways. One is about increasing effectiveness and efficiency, and I think that gets to the core of what you're talking about with the GAO report. "

But there are other aspects as well, she said, expanding on the answer. Transparency, meaning fiscal visibility to both the public and to other federal leaders is important, as is innovation, she said.

Earlier, in her opening remarks, Burwell had laid out her vision of the role.

"I believe in the greatness of our nation," she said. "Our nation has made important progress over the past four years. We have pulled out of a deep economic downturn. Our financial markets have stabilized. Businesses are hiring again."

But, she said, there is more to do.

The Obama administration is already in dialog with Congress on matters such as deficit reduction and increased efficiency and effectiveness, a relationship she hopes to continue.

Burwell, who will appear before the Senate Budget Committee for another confirmation hearing on April 10, said she also wants to make OMB an agency were talented professionals would want to work, and to ensure that both sides of the agency's mission are emphasized.

"Although OMB is most well-known for the work on the budget, the management side of OMB is critical," she said.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Wed, Apr 17, 2013 Zell

Ms. Burwell may be getting smart leadership team at OMB, but she will find that most of them lack the management skills to deliver the President's management agenda. Many were hired because they were minions to some political appointee and were well-liked. She needs to clean house and bring in folks who she knows are qualified. Those folks should do a sweep of the career executive (mid-management) ranks too so we can actually see results rather than half-assed attempts at change.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group