Will Katzen retain year 2000 oversight?
- By Christopher J. Dorobek
- Jan 26, 1998
But some lawmakers and industry officials said last week that the White House is
considering keeping Katzen in charge of year 2000 oversight.
The White House announced this month that Katzen, administrator of the Office of
Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, will become the
deputy director of the White House's National Economic Council.
Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.), chairwoman of the House Science Subcommittee on
Technology, said she heard Katzen would continue her date code oversight responsibilities.
Spokesmen for the White House and OMB said they could not confirm that Katzen would
still oversee agencies' date code work.
Meanwhile, Morella and Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) renewed their call for a single chief
to guide the government as it reworks billions of lines of code. In her job as OIRA chief,
Katzen has been the de facto leader on the date code issue.
But Morella said it was time to create a single post overseeing efforts governmentwide.
"Here's an opportunity for [OMB] now to appoint somebody who can oversee this
important task," she said.
Horn agreed. Katzen's "departure highlights a very serious question: Who is in
charge of the year 2000 problem?" said Horn, chairman of the House Government Reform
and Oversight Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology.
"With less than two years to go before potential electronic chaos, the
administration needs to focus like a laser beam on this issue," he said. "In the
wake of Sally's departure, it is time to establish full-time leadership for the federal
year 2000 effort."
In the past, OMB and White House officials have sidestepped calls for a year 2000 czar.
As the government's IT overseer, OIRA tracks year 2000 efforts based on quarterly reports
submitted by the agencies. Officials there have said that OMB does not have enough
employees to verify and validate the information that agencies submit.
OMB spokesman Jack Gribbon said a czar might not be necessary. "We think we have
the right people in the right places," he said.
Katzen's deputy, Donald Arbuckle, will take over as acting OIRA administrator when
Katzen moves into her White House office in the next few weeks. The White House has begun
the search for a permanent replacement.
Katzen's five-year reign at OIRA saw unprecedented change, and she is largely credited
with implementing those reforms and for having a keen understanding of information
At OIRA, she had to navigate through changes created by legislation such as the Federal
Acquisition Streamlining Act, the Government Performance and Results Act, and the
Information Technology Management and Reform Act.
"I think it's always been apparent to those on the inside that the president has a
great deal of respect for Katzen," said Steven Kelman, the former administrator of
the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.
"From the perspective of the IT community, there has never been an administrator
who has come close in her involvement in and interest in IT issues," he said.
Katzen, an administrative lawyer, came to OIRA from the Washington law firm of Wilmer,
Cutler & Pickering. She had served as counsel to an earlier White House economic
council during the Carter administration.
She has a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, Mich.,
and a bachelor's degree from Smith College in Northampton, Mass.
Katzen is known for an open yet tough style.
"I describe her as something of a diplomat when it comes to dealing with all the
different interests that exist within the government," White House spokesman Mike
McCurry said. Katzen has mastered the art of balancing the conflicting interests within
government agencies and between the government and the private sector as well, he said.
OMB's Information Policy and Technology Bureau chief Bruce McConnell is considered a
possible successor to Katzen at OIRA.