Nominee for OMB position gets a baptism by fire at confirmation hearing

Nominee for OMB position gets a baptism by fire at confirmation hearing

Nominee Sally Katzen says federal IT employee recruitment would be a top priority.

By Christopher J.Dorobek

GCN Staff

Two members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee gave an icy reception to the Clinton administration's nominee for Office of Management and Budget deputy director for management at a confirmation hearing last month.

The 21/2-hour hearing was tense at times as Republican senators chided Sally Katzen about her role in non-information technology regulatory issues, specifically efforts to have federal agencies conduct cost-benefit analyses of regulations and mandates that impose costs on state and local governments.

Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), the committee chairman, also criticized the administration's efforts to improve long-standing problems with agency management. 'OMB has not been doing its job. The management part of OMB has been ignored,' Thompson said.

A Washington attorney, Katzen has held several posts in the administration. In 1993 she was confirmed by the Senate as administrator of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a post she held from June 1993 to February 1998. In that role, she pushed agencies to focus federal regulations on results rather than on processes. She also was involved in the government's year 2000 effort.

She then moved to the White House as deputy director of the National Economic Council.

Committee member Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said that Katzen was the wrong person for the job and that he would work against her nomination.

Voinovich told Katzen that he doesn't believe she has the aggressiveness to bring about the needed changes. 'Your approach to the job is not the approach that I think we should have,' he said. The appointee needs to be more proactive and forceful on issues than Katzen has been, he said.

A spokeswoman for Thompson said the senator had no comment on Katzen's nomination.

Others disagreed with the criticism.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) defended Katzen and her record. 'Few people come before us who are so well-prepared for the position to which she's been nominated,' he said. Katzen has a common-sense view of a government that works well and costs less, he said.

OMB has not had a permanent deputy director for management since July 1997, when John A. Koskinen left the position. Koskinen later returned to the administration and is now chairman of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion.

G. Edward DeSeve served as the acting deputy director but left in March for a private-sector job.

Katzen told lawmakers that two of her key issues would be the human resources problem facing federal agencies'including recruiting and retaining information technology workers'and aligning management efforts with spending.

Key concerns

Katzen said the government needs to look at whether federal workers have the skills, training and pay necessary to do their jobs.

'Do we have the right skill sets and incentives necessary?' Katzen said. 'That is an issue that has been overlooked.'

Katzen also said the budget process needs to reinforce efforts related to the Government Performance and Results Act.

'Management and budgets go hand in hand,' she said. 'We need a better merger.'

Thompson, however, was critical of administration efforts to improve agency management.

The General Accounting Office's list of high-risk programs has grown in the past decade, he said, and OMB needs to do more to force agencies to fix the problems. More troubling, he said, is that agencies don't seem to be making progress.

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