Leadership

Shutdown delays vote on deputy director of management

US Capitol

Faced with one of the most pressing management crises in recent years, the federal government will have to make do a little longer without a deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.

A confirmation vote will not take place on the Senate floor until the partial government shutdown is resolved by the passage of a stopgap funding measure, the office of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Oct. 2. So, despite wowing the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, McKinsey and Company executive Beth Cobert will have to wait for a vote.

Reid's decision to slow walk a vote was not met with universal approval.

"The Senate is not shut down. The fact that we would not process a nominee that's important and vital to establishing something we need seems like shooting at your own feet," said Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the senior Republican on the panel.

Cobert told the panel that she built the requisite skills to handle the challenging post over her 29 years as a management consultant and senior executive at McKinsey. Her work there ranged across industries, including telecommunications, insurance, and financial services. She dealt with issues including acquisition and sourcing, customer relations, marketing, IT modernization, and using data to improve job and business performance. In her testimony and in response to written questions from the committee, Cobert aligned that experience with OMB priorities in IT management, strategic sourcing, human resources and financial management.

While she avoided specifics, Cobert indicated that she would continue pressing for OMB priorities such as data center consolidation and PortfolioStat reviews. She said a "continuous improvement mindset is particularly critical" when it comes to making IT systems more efficient, and that it was important to get input from users to gauge their needs so they are not starving for IT tools on the one hand or over-resourced on the other.

She didn't bite on one of Coburn's favorite agenda items -- a plan to curtail the power of the Department of Defense to cut its own checks, and delegate that power to the Treasury, in order to get a handle on defense expenditures. But she did agree that good data was essential to good management. She also offered to make sure there was a point person at OMB reading and responding to recommendations for agency and program improvement from inspectors general and the Government Accountability Office.

Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Coburn both indicated that they would support Cobert's nomination and help steer her through confirmation by the full Senate.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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