White House to name top management adviser

The Office of Management and Budget is poised to name a leading public administration expert as a temporary counselor for management to Director Mitch Daniels, sources say. Robert O'Neill Jr., president of the National Academy of Public Administration, would essentially act as a temporary deputy director for management at OMB, a position the Bush administration has yet to fill, according to one observer. OMB officials "realize they need a good set of advisers as they begin preparing for the 2003 budget process and the role management will play in it," said Carl DeMaio, director of government redesign at the Reason Public Policy Institute. "The director needs a sounding board in the absence of an appointed [deputy director for management]." The White House will make an announcement on the O'Neill matter shortly, said an OMB official. O'Neill will likely accept a temporary assignment to OMB under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA), according to DeMaio and Chris Brouwer, director of communications at NAPA. The act allows for the temporary transfer of employees among agencies, universities and other eligible organizations, as well as state and local governments. NAPA is eligible to transfer employees under the act and currently has some federal employees on IPA assignments, Brouwer said. The academy conducts research and consults on public administration issues for federal, state and local government agencies. NAPA will pay O'Neill's salary while he works at OMB, according to Brookings Institution scholar and NAPA board member Paul Light. It is unclear how long O'Neill will stay at OMB, but he does not plan to resign as NAPA president, according to Brouwer. O'Neill and the NAPA board of directors are currently deciding who will take over O'Neill's NAPA duties while he serves at OMB, Brouwer added. OMB is soliciting O'Neill's help now to provide immediate assistance on the administration's management agenda, said a private-sector official who requested anonymity. Even if the administration had settled on a deputy director for management, that person would not be confirmed until August or September, the official added. While praising O'Neill, Light questioned why the administration is using him as a management adviser, instead of appointing him as acting deputy director for management, an option under the 1998 amendments to the 1868 Federal Vacancies Act. Appointing O'Neill as an acting management chief would give him more authority when he convenes interagency management councils such as the federal Chief Information Officers Council, said Light. "I think the world of Bob O'Neill, and if you have to have an acting person, than surely you couldn't do better than him," said Light. "[But] I would much prefer he be placed in this position in an acting capacity, especially because he will be convening other agencies' panels." But tapping O'Neill as an adviser means he could later be chosen as the deputy director for management, according to Light. O'Neill honed his management skills as county executive for Fairfax, Va., from 1997 to 1999 and as city manager of Hampton, Va. from 1984 to 1997. An expert in performance-based management techniques, O'Neill was elected as a NAPA Fellow in 1997. O'Neill is a friend of OMB Deputy Director Sean O'Keefe, who is also a NAPA fellow.
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