Full strength at OMB
- By Diane Frank
- Sep 04, 2000
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
"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.