House considers taking the 'M' out of OMB

Members of a House subcommittee today began exploring the possibility of spinning out a special "Office of Management" from the Office of Management and Budget.

The move would create a small, but focused, office that could guide federal agencies through problems that require more management than budget skills, such as the Year 2000 problem, investing in information technology and managing finances.

Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Information, Management and Technology, is leading the investigation into what responsibilities might fall to the new office, and he has already drafted a bill to create a special management office.

A hearing held today before Horn's subcommittee may be the first in a series of hearings on creating an Office of Management. Sentiment among most panelists at today's hearing was that a special office focused on management would be useful to federal agencies. Focusing on management within the executive branch "has not worked within OMB," said hearing witness Paul Light, director of the public policy program at The Pew Charitable Trusts. "Perhaps we should try it outside OMB."

Notably absent from the lineup of panelists at the hearing were officials from OMB. But one subcommittee staff member said OMB officials will be included in future hearings.

Horn framed the need for more of a management focus at top levels of the executive branch as a way for the federal government to detect such problems as the Year 2000 bug early on. "The president needs to know when something dumb is being done in the executive branch so he can deal with it," Horn said. An Office of Management "ought to be the in-house consulting firm."

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