OMB Nominees Pledge to Avoid Future Shutdowns, Improve Budget Stewardship
Biden’s picks for deputy director and deputy director for management told lawmakers they are committed to transparency and improving fiscal oversight.
Two of President Biden’s nominees for top positions at the Office of Management and Budget on Thursday pledged to improve transparency and oversight in how agencies spend taxpayer dollars.
Shalanda Young and Jason Miller, tapped to become OMB’s deputy director and deputy director for management, respectively, testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. This was Young’s second confirmation hearing this week and comes two days after Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination to lead the office. Lawmakers from both parties have been pushing the administration to tap Young for the powerful budget director position in the wake of Tanden’s withdrawal.
“My work on the [House] Appropriations Committee taught me that both sides can compromise without compromising their values—even when that means no one gets everything they want,” said Young, who worked on the committee’s professional staff for 9 years before serving as the Democratic deputy staff director and then staff director for another five years. “I will forever be indebted to this institution and, if confirmed, I look forward to using my experience in these halls to ensure both branches operate with mutual respect and work toward solutions that will improve the lives of those we serve.”
Pointedly, Young pledged to find budget solutions to avoid future government shutdowns.
She also committed to working on a federal program inventory to cut wasteful and duplicative programs, being transparent with Congress, ensuring agencies cooperate with the Government Accountability Office and inspectors general, and ensuring fairness in the rule-making process.
Additionally, Young said she would implement two recent laws on financial stewardship, the 2020 Payment Integrity Information Act, which cracks down on agencies issuing improper payments; and the Taxpayers Right to Know Act” (enacted in the fiscal 2021 annual defense policy bill), which requires agencies to be more transparent about the performance and costs of their programs.
After Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., pointed out that, as of the end of January, 27 of the 31 recommendations GAO made for agencies’ implementation of the CARES Act were not put into action, Young said, “I think OMB can serve a critical role in issuing guidance to agencies to ensure that they understand and are responding to GAO recommendations.” She noted that before GAO publishes its reports, agencies have the opportunity to dispute any recommendations with which they disagree.
Miller––a former Obama administration economic adviser and most recently a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and CEO of the Greater Washington Partnership, a nonprofit civic alliance––echoed Young’s pledges.
If confirmed, one of his first priorities will be “making sure we are operating effectively, efficiently, minimizing waste and delivering relief, delivering on getting vaccines to people with shots in their arms fast” as well as “ensuring that all federal agencies are delivering on their critical missions even while they’re learning to operate in new and different ways.”
Noting that he would be the executive chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, he said, “it's absolutely imperative that OMB repair the relationship with inspectors general and make sure they have the resources and the access necessary to do their jobs.”
In response to a question from Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., about recruiting and retaining a diverse federal workforce, Miller and Young both spoke about the challenges and opportunities.
“Successful organizations require talented, diverse, highly engaged teams” and in the federal government, “the engagement levels, the morale levels are not where they should be,” said Miller. “We do need to broaden the sources of recruitment into the federal government, including by inspiring more people to serve. This includes a focus on diversity and inclusion, it also includes a focus on technical talent. We need to look at any bottlenecks in the system to bring people in. He pledged to work with the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, Office of Personnel Management and Congress to improve federal hiring.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said the White House was unlikely to tap a new nominee for OMB director this week. Then on Thursday, she urged Congress to move quickly on Young’s nomination because, if confirmed, Young could serve as acting head of OMB.
President Biden “thinks so highly of her” and when pressed on why he doesn’t nominated her for the director role, Psaki said, “there is a range of individuals” qualified for the job, “so we’ll leave him the space and time to make a decision about who he’d like to nominate as a replacement.”
So far, top members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., House Appropriations Committee Chair, have come out in support of Young to be OMB director.
Until a director is confirmed, Robert Fairweather is temporarily leading the White House office that ensures the president’s vision is carried out across the executive branch. To that end, he issued a memo to all executive departments and agencies on Wednesday outlining the clearance process for their legislative proposals to ensure they are consistent with the administration’s agenda.