With OMB and OFPP heads gone, can the administration agenda advance?

Despite soon having an Office of Management and Budget without a director and a senior administrator, the policy-making office nevertheless will continue its work, advancing the Obama administration’s priority initiatives throughout the election year, according to experts.

Officials will issue their guidance for agencies on various topics and other branch offices will continue their work, such as the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and its mission to make regulatory language easier to understand. The fiscal 2013 budget proposal is already at the printer's office, and officials are preparing for its presentation to Congress.

Those are routine aspects of the office's work. What about more controversial policies?

They're not likely to slow down much either, especially since 2012 is an election year , because the administration has "been aggressive advancing their proposals, particularly through regulatory changes,” Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president for national security and procurement policy at TechAmerica, said Jan. 11.

As President Barack Obama announced on Jan. 9, the now outgoing OMB director, Jack Lew will be the new White House chief of staff. William Daley, the current chief of staff, is head back to Chicago. Meanwhile, Dan Gordon, former director of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy -- part of OMB -- left in December to take a position in academia.

The official shift is expected to take place at the end of the month, following the preparations for the State of the Union address and the preparation of the fiscal 2013 budget submission to Congress. The administration has not announced who will succeed Lew. Heather Higginbottom is the deputy director, and Jeffrey Zients is the deputy director of management at OMB. Both names are floating around as possible choices.

Meanwhile, industry is still on the lookout, concerned about what could still come out of OMB. There is the possibility that the Obama administration is advancing some controversial executive orders.

One proposed order would require government contractors to report who they have supported with their political contributions.

A draft of the order was circulating throughout Washington, DC, and caused a ruckus. Congress tried to squelch any opportunity for such an order in the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which Obama signed in December. In the end, the bill restricts the wholesale collection of political information when it comes to defense procurement.

But Rep. Ann Eshoo (D-Calif.) said the fiscal 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was also signed into law in December, left room for the executive order. In the final bill, many stipulations that would hinder the ability to gather the information were gone.

“Today’s compromise omnibus spending bill leaves the president free to require disclosure from any company receiving taxpayer dollars,” Eshoo said in a statement Dec. 16, adding, “I hope the president takes this opportunity to finally issue his long-awaited executive order.”

Eshoo introduced legislation that would put the language of the draft order into law. It has not been passed.

The White House may be moving ahead too.

According to a Jan. 10 story from AlterNet.org, Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, said the White House is considering the executive order.

“I just had a meeting at the White House counsel’s office, trying to encourage them to move forward with the executive order. They have the perfect window of opportunity to get the executive order done,” Holman said in the report.

AlterNet also said the order would be the only campaign finance initiative coming from Washington this election year, since Congress is expected to have its attention elsewhere. The order would take effect after the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council adopts new disclosure rules.

“That could come as the 2012 election season moves beyond the primaries and it would offer a new way to see who is behind the newest independent groups spending millions on political attack ads,” the report adds.

The Obama administration also has another controversial initiative called the “High Road” initiative, which could arise this year too.

The initiative would create labor-related evaluation criteria for companies that are seeking federal contracts. The High Road preference would require acquisition officials to give advantages in awarding contracts to companies that adopt labor practices beyond those currently required by federal labor laws, such as paying more than minimally required for certain jobs.

At Lew’s confirmation hearing in 2010, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, pushed the nominee to promise he would not approve the High Road labor preference. Lew refused to commit though.

Lew said such a policy considers two sides of procurement: Competition for contracts and the protections for employees in the workplace.

The political disclosure and the High Road initiatives have a political flavor and, Hodgkins said he would not be surprised to see them advanced in an election year.

All in all, OMB isn't expected to be twiddling its thumbs.

“The outlook we have for issues and initiatives that we are facing this year does not leave industry with the feeling we are in a holding pattern," Hodgkins said.

About the Author

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

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 SPMayor Summit Point, WV

Nice way to draw attention to an issue. I think OFPP will do nicely. While Dan Gordon was a breath of professional fresh air, those career people who remain [from experience I think of Lesley, Matt, and Julia - not to overlook the others on that team as well] will continue to work diligently and openly to deal with issues. There may not be a buffer between them and the politico's but I am confident they will do their best to represent the best interests of the Government while also considering the merits of the positions offered up by industry and other stakeholders.

Thu, Jan 12, 2012

With OMB and OFPP heads gone, can the administration agenda advance? - Why not, it has operated in a vacuum every since the White House lawn Bonfire.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group