House panel holds annual debate on splitting OMB

In what has become an annual ritual, Rep. Stephen Horn, R-Calif., presided over a hearing Wednesday on whether or not to divide the Office of Management and Budget into separate management and budget offices.

Congress has considered splitting OMB for more than a decade. Proponents of the idea argue that budget functions at the office overshadow the management side of the house.

"The M bit [of OMB] hasn't worked since Nixon. If it did work, we wouldn't be here today," Horn said.

Horn said the impending year 2000 computer problem showed the need for better federal management. "Y2K [planning] should have happened way back in 1989," but it didn't, he said, because "there was no system for management."

G. Edward DeSeve, deputy director for management at OMB, said the administration opposes Horn's plan. Without the control provided by a combined management and budget office, DeSeve said, his job would be much harder. "I simply cannot imagine a bifurcated OMB trying to deal with agency streamlining, improving customer service or implementing the Government Performance and Results Act," he said in a prepared statement.

Dwight A. Ink, president emeritus at the Institute of Public Administration, however, said his efforts at management reform under several Presidents showed that management must be handled separately from budgets. "The more we could distance ourselves from the budget [side], the greater our ability to function," he said.

Horn will introduce legislation that would separate federal management functions from OMB within the next few days.

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