Progress mixed on naming officials to oversee stimulus spending

Agencies have had mixed success at meeting one of the first deadlines related to the massive economic stimulus package: the goal of selecting by Feb. 13 a high-level official to oversee spending.

A number of agencies contacted by Government Executive have placed someone in charge of economic recovery act activities, as requested by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag in a Feb. 9 memorandum. But at least several others missed the Feb. 13 deadline.

The Homeland Security Department, which will receive nearly $2 billion to install explosives detection and checkpoint screening systems in airports, construct and improve border security, and improve Coast Guard infrastructure has yet to name its stimulus point person. A department spokeswoman said an announcement could come soon.

The General Services Administration, which will get more than $5.5 billion to make federal buildings and government vehicles more energy efficient and to expand border security, still is working on designating an official, a spokesman said.

And the Agriculture Department, which will receive more than $1 billion for Forest Service projects, modernization of the Farm Service Agency's computer systems, and headquarters repairs and security enhancements, is not yet prepared to make an announcement, a spokesman said.

Some agencies are waiting for President Obama to appoint high-level deputies who fit the criteria for the position.

In guidance issued on Wednesday, OMB said the designee: "should have responsibility and authority to coordinate across agency bureaus, program offices and programs. It is recommended that the senior accountable official be at the sub-Cabinet or deputy secretary level and lead regular reviews of recovery planning, implementation and performance. The senior accountable official should also designate a person or office for maintaining their agency's Recovery Act content on their Web site."

The Health and Human Services Department plans to name its next deputy secretary as stimulus coordinator, but that position has yet to be filled, spokesman Bill Hall said. In the meantime, he said, that role will be filled by Chief of Staff Mark Childress.

Many agencies, however, already have named a permanent stimulus coordinator.

The Defense Department picked Mike McCord for the job. McCord, who took over as Pentagon deputy comptroller last month, spent much of his career handling national security issues in the legislative branch, primarily as a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

On Thursday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the appointment of Matt Rogers as his senior adviser responsible for overseeing stimulus spending. Rogers, formerly a senior partner with the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., served on the Obama transition team and has been working closely with the Energy Department's chief financial officer.

Other agency stimulus coordinators are:

  • Environmental Protection Agency: Craig Hooks, director of the Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds in the Office of Water
  • NASA: Ronald Spoehel, chief financial officer
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Maureen Wylie, chief financial officer
  • National Park Service: Bruce Sheaffer, comptroller
  • Social Security Administration: Mary Glenn-Croft, deputy commissioner for budget, finance and management
  • Veterans Affairs Department: John Gingrich, chief of staff
Still other agencies have started appointing teams to manage certain elements of the stimulus, but have yet to designate a coordinator.

The Small Business Administration has formed 14 teams that will handle the act's specific requirements and related activities, spokesman Michael Stamler said.

"All our teams have a senior leader [and are] mostly composed of senior leadership people," he said. "And we will be appointing this [stimulus coordinator]. But we wanted to get going on the teams before we did that."

During a conference call with reporters on Friday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that he had formed a recovery task force that will manage and administer the agency's funds. Salazar said he would soon announce a "stimulus czar" to ensure "that this money is spent wisely."

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