As former career officials and presidential appointees from both parties at the Office Management and Budget, we write with great concern about reports that up to 88 percent of staff positions at OMB could be classified as Schedule F appointees, making their incumbents subject to removal or appointment at will by political leadership. This would, in our view as former OMB officials, fundamentally damage one of the central institutions of our government, and would harm the ability of the Biden administration and any future administration of either party to govern effectively.
While we recognize that there are larger federal personnel policy issues involved in the issuance, status, and potential implementation of the Schedule F executive order, this letter focuses on the very real risks of redesignating the vast majority of OMB career staff into Schedule F status.
Career staff at OMB have served presidents of both parties by providing them with the best advice and help to achieve their priorities. Every president deserves the most objective and informed analysis from experts in how government works. This requires a cadre of experienced people willing to speak truth to power while remaining loyal to their responsibility to advance the goals of the current administration. Even as OMB’s responsibilities and internal structure have changed over time, a constant has been the commitment of its career staff to the highest standard of service to the presidency—to helping each presidential administration achieve its policy priorities and meet new challenges. Throughout, the institutional memory, analytic talent, and commitment of OMB staff have remained important assets to presidents as they work to achieve their policy and budget priorities and to improve government’s management and performance.
During presidential transitions, OMB provides analysis, memory and continuity. Following the election and until the inauguration, OMB career staff simultaneously but separately support the current president and brief transition teams representing the incoming president. At inauguration, when political appointees of the outgoing administration depart and its records are archived, OMB staff work with new appointees of the incoming administration to turn its priorities into specific budget and policy proposals. OMB helps a new president provide guidance to executive agencies when they may have few if any Senate-confirmed political appointees. Then and thereafter, OMB staff provide senior policy officials in OMB and the White House with immediate access to current and historical knowledge about federal programs and operations; funding history and program effectiveness; and near-term challenges and unresolved issues—along with advice on often highly technical matters of policy, budget, law, regulation, management and administration.
Interviewed in 2014, former OMB Director Jim Nussle described his experience with OMB career staff as follows: “Below that [political appointee] layer, are all hard charging professionals that serve any president that comes in, and do it with just as much rigor and enthusiasm as they did for the last person who held the presidency.”
The designation of up to 425 career officials in OMB as Schedule F employees raises significant procedural and substantive questions about the impact on OMB’s critical work in serving presidents of either party. For example, will the strong analytical qualifications and expertise of people filling these positions change if they can be dismissed without due process protections? Will they offer the same candid advice on the consequences of policies proposed by the president’s political staff in the West Wing or appointees at the top of executive departments and agencies? In past years, many OMB career staff stayed on in the agency for years and spent most, if not all, of their working lives at OMB, despite higher salaries in the private sector and often low regard for public servants. If the terms of employment change, will a new administration be able to turn to people with deep knowledge of how government works to inform their choices and help them implement new policies? We fear that the proposed reclassification would break decades of trusted partnership between policy officials and career professionals at the top of our government, thereby weakening the ability of future presidents to govern.
The signers of this statement include both former senior career executives and presidential appointees of both parties, all of whom cherished the opportunity to serve the presidency. We oppose the misconceived effort to change the status of OMB career staff and thereby cause long-term damage to one of the key institutions of our government. Implementation of the proposed change could interfere with OMB’s vital role during the transition and in the opening days of any new administration. We recommend that the Office of Personnel Management reject OMB’s request for redesignation and that this request not be implemented, pending review of the larger issues around the potential issuance of the Schedule F executive order.
Gordon Adams, Associate Director, National Security and International Affairs, 1993-1997
Barry Anderson, Assistant Director for Budget, 1980–1998.*
Rodney Bent, Deputy Associate Director for International Affairs, 1983-2004
Jonathan Breul, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director for Management, 1982–2002.*
Al Burman, Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy, 1971-74; 1976-1994*
Dan Chenok, Chief, Information Policy and Technology Branch, 1990-2003*
Barbara Chow, Associate Director for Education, Income Maintenance, and Labor,
Barry Clendenin, Deputy Associate Director, Health Division, 1977-2008*
Ron Cogswell, Deputy Associate Director for Natural Resources, 1978-2001
Phil Dame, Deputy Assistant Director, Budget Review, 1968-2006*
G. Edward DeSeve, Controller and Deputy Director for Management, 1995-1999
Susan Dudley, Administrator, Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs, 1984-1989, 2007-2009*
Richard Emery, Assistant Director for Budget Review, 1969-1972 and 1986-2005*
TJ Glauthier, Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy, and Science, 1993-1998
Robert Goldberg, Deputy Associate Director for International Affairs, 1995-2009
Joshua Gotbaum, Executive Associate Director and Controller, 1997-2001
John Graham, Administrator, Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs,
Margie Graves, Deputy Chief Information Officer, 2016-2020*
Richard Green, Branch Chief, Economics, Science, and General Government Branch, Legislative Reference Division, 1989-2015*
Herman Habermann, Chief Statistician of the U.S. and Deputy Associate Director, 1988-1994
Elgie Holstein, Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy, and Science, 1998-2000
Janet Irwin, Deputy Associate Director for Natural Resources, 1984-1991, 1996-2017
Susan Jacobs, Chief, Veterans Affairs Branch, 1981-1992
Clay Johnson III, Deputy Director for Management, 2003-2009
Sally Katzen, Administrator, Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs, Deputy Director for Management, 1993-2000
Steven Kelman, Administrator, Office of Federal Procurement Policy, 1993-1997
Steve Kosiak, Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, 2009-2014
John A. Koskinen, Deputy Director for Management, 1994-1997
Robert Kyle, Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, 1998-2001
Jonathan Lachman, Associate Director for National Security Programs, 2014-2017
Bernard Martin, Deputy Associate Director, Education, Income Maintenance and Labor Programs, 1970-1975, 1979-1997*
Larry Matlack, Deputy Associate Director for Education, Income Maintenance, and Labor, 1975-2005
Rick Mertens, Deputy Associate Director for Energy, Water, and Science, 1983-2012
Shelley Metzenbaum, Associate Director for Performance and Personnel, 2009-2012
Joe Minarik, Chief Economist, 1993 – 2000*
Kevin Neyland, Deputy Administrator, Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs, 1982-2012
Sean O’Keefe, Deputy Director, 2001
Marcus Peacock, Program Associate Director, 1986 – 1988; 1989 -1990; 2001 – 2005*
Kathleen Peroff, Deputy Associate Director for National Security, 1984-2013*
Steve Redburn, Chief, Housing Branch, 1986 – 2006*
Franklin S. Reeder, Assistant Director for General Management, 1970-1977, 1980-1995
Ken Ryder, Deputy Associate Director for Housing, Treasury, and Finance, 1973-1995
Andy Schoenbach, Chief, Budget Systems Branch and Policy Lead, Budget Formulation and Execution Line of Business, 1987-2015*
Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management, 2002 – 2008*
Howard Shelanski, Administrator, Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs, 2013-2017
Kathy Stack, Deputy Associate Director, Education, Income Maintenance, and Labor Division, 1982–1991, 1995-1998, 1999-2015*
Art Stigile, Chief, Budget Concepts Branch, Budget Review Division, 1984 – 2019*
Katherine K. Wallman, Chief Statistician of the U.S., 1992-2017
Danny Werfel, Controller, 1997-1999 and 2002-2013*
*These are co-authors of The Office of Management and Budget, An Insider’s Guide, written for the White House Transition Project, which was a resource for new OMB leaders in 2016 and has been updated in 2020.
**All dates of OMB service are shown. Title for each signer is their highest or main position held.