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OMB reasserts its gatekeeper role between agencies and Congress

Acting OMB Director Jeffrey Zients

Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffrey Zients is reminding agencies not to engage with Congress without first getting OMB clearance.

Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients sent agencies a simple yet stern reminder on April 15: If you want to talk to Congress, talk to OMB first -- and do it fast.

The memo states that "the operational challenges posed by sequestration" make "enhanced levels of communication and cooperation between agencies and OMB" especially important, and urges officials to submit draft materials to OMB "as far in advance as is feasible."

OMB is supposed to clear all legislative proposals, agency testimony and letters on pending legislation to ensure that such communications reflect "coordinated executive branch views." The memo includes a summary of the "legislative clearance function," and -- lest an agency leader be tempted to circular-file the reminder -- promises that "Legislative Reference Division staff at OMB will be contacting their agency counterparts to discuss these matters."

Although the timing is notable for the IT community, given Department of Homeland Security CIO Richard Spires' extended leave and reported standoff over CIO authorities, the reminder is more likely due to the many budget-related conversations under way on Capitol Hill. Or Zients might simply be putting the house in order before stepping aside for director-nominee Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

OMB could not immediately be reached for comment on what prompted the memo. But whatever the catalyst: You've been warned.

Posted by Troy K. Schneider on Apr 16, 2013 at 12:10 PM

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Reader comments

Wed, Apr 17, 2013

OMB is an agency with WAY too much power. Civil servants at very low levels in the OMB are making high level decisions on behalf of other agencies. It is a "log jam" entity. Essentially, when an agency makes a budget request, the OMB can alter it. Say what!!!?? I know OMB belongs to the Executive Branch, but I think Congress needs to conduct a serious investigation into their "behind the scenes" practices.

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