Senator drops hold on OMB management nominee

Content that his concerns over the Bush administration's management agenda were being heard, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., dropped his hold on the nomination of Clay Johnson to be the Bush administration's management czar on Friday, removing an obstacle to Johnson's confirmation by the full Senate.

Byrd applied the hold to protest the administration's competitive sourcing initiative, which aims to put 425,000 federal jobs up for competition with private firms, and to press for greater congressional input on Bush management reforms.

The senator removed the hold after holding discussions with Johnson on the management agenda, according to Byrd spokeswoman Jennifer Reed. Johnson paid a visit to Byrd on May 7, and the two exchanged letters addressing the senator's concerns.

"His motivation was just to open up the lines of communications about this issue; he didn't want the management agenda to just slide by," she said. Reed added that Byrd remains concerned about the competitive sourcing push. "He hears quite a bit from West Virginia constituents that are very concerned for their jobs," she said. The Office of Management and Budget would not comment on the development.

Johnson, the former White House personnel director, has been serving as counselor to OMB Director Mitch Daniels since his nomination to be deputy director for management at OMB in January. Johnson already has put his stamp on the management agenda through the "Proud to Be" initiative, a goal-setting exercise designed to move agencies out of "red," or failing, status on OMB's traffic-light-style management scorecard by July 1, 2004.

Besides holding up Johnson's nomination, Byrd's hold also factored in OMB's decision to not release its final, revised version of Circular A-76, the government's job competition manual, according to several sources. The new circular was originally slated to be issued in January.

Byrd and Johnson discussed competitive sourcing in their letter exchange. In a letter Byrd handed to Johnson at their May 7 meeting, the senator asked Johnson to share agency competitive sourcing plans with Congress. "Congress has a right and a duty to know about the specific agency proposals as they are being considered," he wrote.

In a May 8 response, Johnson pledged to make the competitive sourcing effort transparent to Congress and the public.

"The process that enables true public-private competition should be open not only to Congress, but open and fair to the public, the employees, and all others who share our goal of delivering the best service at the best value to the taxpayers," wrote Johnson.

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