Bolten pledges management focus

In a continuing departure from the old view of the Office of Management and Budget director's role, nominee Joshua Bolten today told senators at his confirmation hearing that enhancing federal management is "equally important" to developing the federal budget.

Should his confirmation go through, Bolten would take over as the Bush administration's management and budget leader from Mitchell Daniels Jr., who returned to the private sector June 6.

Many in the government and industry fields have expressed concern about whether Daniels' management focus would continue under a new leader, especially since the deputy director and deputy director for management positions are also going through a transition. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said she plans to push for Bolten's confirmation by the full Senate before the August recess.

All five of the president's Management Agenda items — strategic workforce management, expanded use of e-government, increased competitive bidding of government services, improved financial performance and linking performance to budgets — are important priorities. The Senate also can help OMB's effort to improve agencies' capabilities in these areas by supporting the management scorecard, Bolten said.

When it comes to information technology, OMB's greatest advantage is its ability to provide guidance based on information from all agencies, not just the limited perspective of a single agency or segment, he said. "OMB's strength is that it can look out across the whole of government."

In order to assure several senators who expressed their concern about the administration's push on competitive sourcing, Bolten said that ensuring that agencies have the proper training to hold their own in competitions with the private sector is also a priority.

"If the agencies need more time to have their personnel trained to compete...then we should be flexible in giving the time to do that, because what we don't want to do is give the bum rush here," he said.

Bolten's focus on management issues was good news for Collins, who emphasized that "while OMB's budget functions are important, so are its management responsibilities...ensuring agencies are properly managed is crucial to seeing that taxpayer dollars are properly spent."

Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed Clay Johnson as OMB's deputy director for management, but the deputy director position is still vacant.

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