Orszag's departure expected to have little effect on IT, acquisition

Information technology initiatives, acquisition policies are stable issues and won't feel much from the turmoil of OMB leadership changes, experts say

Information technology initiatives and acquisition policies are stable fields in the government in spite of the turmoil that comes with leadership changes at the top of the Office of Management and Budget, according to several experts. The OMB director looks at the budget, but often leaves the management issues to the deputy director, experts say.

To that end, IT initiatives such as consolidating agencies’ data centers and acquisition policies that seek to save money and get as much as possible from each tax dollar spent will look good to a director who's looking at the budget, said Kevin Plexico, senior vice president for research and development services at market research firm Input Inc.

“Data center consolidation is probably going to be noise” to the incoming budget director, especially under the current fiscal circumstances. “IT and acquisition are benign issues.” But cost-saving initiatives likely will sound good to him or her, he added.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed on June 22  that Peter Orszag, the current OMB director, would be leaving. Gibbs gave no specific date, except to say that Orszag would be gone before the fiscal 2012 budget process begins.

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“I would say obviously Peter has served alongside and within a valuable economic team that has faced the greatest economic crisis that any president has faced since the Great Depression,” Gibbs said during a press briefing.

Still, IT and acquisition communities won’t feel much from the leadership change, said Al Burman, former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) and now president of Jefferson Consulting Group. The director focuses in large part on the budget, while the deputy director of management, Jeffery Zients, is the linchpin for continuing the management efforts, like IT and acquisition initiatives.

“The director has one constituent: the president,” Burman said. Officials in Zients’ position have to deal with a wider swath of constituencies, such as agencies and many members of Congress who are interested in government operations.

Robert Burton, deputy administrator at OFPP from 2001 to 2008, said the OMB director only has time for budgets. Even if the director has an interest in management issues, there is little time.

"Consumed. I think that's a good word for it," he said.

Larry Allen, president of Coalition for Government Procurement, said Orszag has brought a lot of energy and organization to OMB, which, in turn, has pushed ahead many IT and acquisition initiatives. Orszag backed many officials who worked on those initiatives, he said.

With Orszag’s departure, Allen said, “Some policies could go from fifth gear to fourth.”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.


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