No new OMB pick yet, White House says

In her daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Shalanda Young could serve as budget director on an acting basis if confirmed as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Eisenhower Executive Office Building (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
 

Shalanda Young, the Biden administration's pick for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, could lead the agency while a new nominee to service as director is sought.

Young had her second nomination hearing in the Senate for the deputy position on Thursday, alongside Jason Miller, the nominee to serve as deputy director for management at the agency.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Thursday not to expect a new OMB director nominee this week to replace the scuttled nomination of Neera Tanden.

The Biden administration is "certainly hopeful Congress will move forward on [confirming Young as deputy directory]," Psaki said. "And then she would be in a place to be the acting head … while we go through the process of nominating a replacement for Neera."

Top House Democrats have been lobbying for Shalanda Young, staff director at the House Appropriations Committee, to be swapped in for Tanden, whose combative social media presence drew negative attention from Republican senators. Republicans in the Senate Budget Committee have also said they'd support Young's promotion to the director position.

Young previewed her plans for OMB during a hearing before the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee that focused in on workforce and technology issues.

A critical part of strengthening and diversifying the federal workforce will be broadening the applicant pool, Young said.

Young got her start as a Presidential Management Fellow, but not everyone knows about these types of opportunities, she said.

"I was lucky to find a brochure in a dean's office in New Orleans," said Young, a Louisiana native. "I think we have to do a better job of where we recruit around the country. I think people will travel, they will serve their country, they just don't know a lot opportunities exist."

Strengthening recruiting at community colleges could help, she said.

She testified with Jason Miller, Biden's nominee for deputy director for management. He worked as an economic advisor during the Obama administration and has since served as the CEO of the Greater Washington Partnership, a nonprofit civic alliance aimed at spurring economic growth in the Washington region.

If confirmed, Miller will play a central role in developing and implementing the president's management agenda, which sets priorities across the federal government for modernization.

Sorting out bottlenecks in the recruitment and hiring process will be part of efforts to recruit more people into the federal workforce, he said. He'd also work with the Office of Personnel Management and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council on the recruitment issue, Miller said.

"Our committed federal workers are an asset to our country, and addressing our challenges will require strengthening and energizing our federal workforce and inspiring even more Americans to serve," said Miller.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) directed the conversation to IT modernization, telling the nominees that OMB has a critical role to play in holding agencies accountable for modernizing their technology.

Young assured Hassan that she'd pursue that if confirmed, but she also emphasized the importance of resources for IT modernization.

"We've dealt with budget caps over the last 10 years," she said. "When your choice is between programs that impact families and IT systems, sometimes IT systems have not won out."

Not fixing "lackluster information technology systems" can create problems in other areas, Young said, pointing to modernization as a key part of preventing improper payment and fraud, which have ballooned in the unemployment insurance arena since the start of the pandemic.

The Technology Modernization Fund can be critical to bypassing the one year budget and appropriations cycle that often hampers modernization efforts that have a longer timeline, she said.

Miller vowed to work on filling technical talent gaps in the workforce.

He pointed to the example of the United States Digital Service as having success in recruiting more technically skilled workers into the federal government, but said that more work needs to be done. He'll work with chief information officers and agencies to address this need, which is especially critical in the cybersecurity realm, he said.

Finally, Young and Miller both addressed the recent issuance of the Government Accountability's biennial High Risk List about places in the government susceptible to waste, fraud and abuse.

OMB has a role to play in issuing guidance to agencies to ensure that they respond to GAO's recommendations, Young said.

Miller also said that he planned to restart collaboration between OMB, GAO and agencies to make progress on cybersecurity and strategic human capital management in particular.

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