Veteran federal executive slated for number two slot at OMB

Former Navy Secretary and Pentagon Comptroller Sean O'Keefe is slated to be President Bush's nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, according to congressional sources. If O'Keefe is tapped to fill the number two slot at OMB, it would add another chapter to the civil service career of a longtime student of public management. O'Keefe, 45, is an expert on budget and high-tech issues who is highly regarded in defense circles for the management and budget reforms he pushed as Navy Secretary in the first Bush administration. As the top deputy to OMB director Mitch Daniels, O'Keefe would have primary responsibility for crafting the administration's budget. In just more than a year as Navy Secretary, O'Keefe pressed the Navy to update its operational mission for the post-Cold War era. His efforts led to "From the Sea," a mission statement that shifted the department's focus toward influencing events on land and maintaining a forward presence around the globe. "For the time he had [as Secretary], he did a lot," said Ronald O'Rourke, naval analyst with the Congressional Research Service. "He convinced the Navy to move ahead on 'From the Sea' and presided over major internal budgeting reforms." O'Keefe's Navy tenure was also marked by a major reorganization of the department budget process directed by Adm. William Owens, then deputy chief of naval operations for Navy program planning. Instead of divying up money between the air, submarine and surface groups - the Navy's traditional practice -- Owens made budget allocations according to a group's contribution to a defined mission or program. This budgeting process helped achieve the management changes outlined in the From the Sea document, O'Rourke said. After leaving the Navy, O'Keefe served as Louis A. Bantle professor of business and government policy at Syracuse's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. A Presidential Management Intern in 1978, he is generally believed to have achieved the highest rank of any graduate of the PMI program. O'Keefe, who has close ties to Vice President Dick Cheney, had previously served as defense comptroller under Cheney from 1989 until 1991. O'Keefe recently chaired a Navy review of department personnel policies aimed at creating the workforce of two decades from now. Daniels, who has little background in budgetary matters, will likely hire several former staffers of the Senate Budget Committee to assist O'Keefe. A leading candidate for the deputy director for management slot at OMB, occupied by Sally Katzen in the Clinton administration, has yet to emerge. The Bush administration is expected to rename this position the "deputy director for management and technology" to reflect the occupant's additional duties as the federal chief information officer.
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