Full strength at OMB

The Office of Management and Budget has all its top officials in place for

the first time in more than three years, a circumstance that experts say

should give it more clout during the closing months of the Clinton administration.

While Congress was out for summer recess in August, President Clinton

named Sally Katzen as deputy director for management at OMB. The position

has been filled only in an acting capacity since John Koskinen, most recently

the administration's Year 2000 czar, resigned in July 1997.

Clinton named Katzen to the position through a little-used presidential

authority to circumvent Senate confirmation when Congress is in recess.

By appointing her even though the Republican-led Senate delayed confirmation

for so long, Clinton has given his administration a strong, stable voice

in the final days, said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, a government

watchdog group in Washington, D.C.

"It's helpful to have the authority of a deputy instead of someone who

is "acting' in the position," he said. "It lends a deeper sense of responsibility."

The deputy director for management (DDM) oversees the OMB Office of

Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy

and the Office of Federal Financial Management, and has overall responsibility

for management practices and procedures throughout the federal government.

Many of the high-impact laws passed in recent years by Congress, including

the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and the Government Paper-work

Elimination Act, require oversight by the DDM.

Although other OMB leaders have stepped forward to help agencies craft

the responses required by various legislation, the lack of a deputy has

often been felt when GPRA and other management functions were discussed

in Congress.

"There are a number of areas in which there were hearings over the last

nine months with issues where the DDM should have been testifying," Katzen

said. Instead, people such as John Spotila, director of the Office of Information

and Regulatory Affairs, and Joshua Gotbaum, executive associate director

and controller at OMB, have been called to Capitol Hill. This leaves OMB

without a single, strong voice, Katzen said.

Katzen has been involved in many efforts led by those offices, either

while heading the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs or more recently

as counselor to the director of OMB. The efforts included working on government-wide

organizations such as the President's Management Council and the FirstGov

Web portal for citizens to access the federal government.

"Before I received the appointment, I...made a number of suggestions

[to OMB Director Jacob Lew]," Katzen said. "Now that I am the DDM, I will

be making a number of decisions."

Agencies will likely feel more comfortable with guidance coming out

of OMB under Katzen's official signature rather than another OMB office,

Bass said. "Agency officials, they want to have sign-off not from an acting

but from a deputy," he said.

Katzen's appointment will also free up many people who took on the tasks

normally handled by the DDM, Bass said. On several occasions, OMB has issued

memorandums under Lew's signature that should have been taken care of by

the deputy, he said.

Overall, the biggest beneficiary is OMB itself, Bass said. The agency

now has a person to oversee half of its operations instead of working with

someone seen as a placeholder. "It's important that government doesn't stop....

You've got to be able, as an agency, to get things done," he said.

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