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OMB Director Nominee Hints At Tech Priorities

In mostly cordial nomination hearings, Jack Lew says that as director of the Office of Management and Budget, he'll focus on, among other things, procurement and performance management.

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In two nomination hearings before Senate committees Thursday, Jack Lew, the likely next director of the Office of Management and Budget, stressed his intention to focus not just on the budget itself, but also on key management issues like IT procurement, performance management and contracting reform.

"If confirmed as OMB director, making government more efficient and more effective, more open and responsive to the American people will be a key priority of mine as it is of the President," he said, noting later that he wanted government to be able to deliver services with the convenience of services found in daily life. "The management of the federal government is particularly important during lean times."

Lew, who also served as director of OMB under the Clinton administration, drew praise from Senators of both parties during his hearings with the Senate budget and Senate homeland security and government affairs committees, though he occasionally sparred with Republican Senators on tax and budget issues.

"Throughout my career, I have worked collaboratively across partisan and ideological divides to cut through gridlock and help solve seemingly intractable problems," Lew said. "If confirmed as OMB Director, I will work in that bipartisan fashion again with all those committed to taking constructive steps to rejuvenating our nation's economy and its fiscal standing."

Most of his time on Capitol Hill was spent discussing those tax and budget issues, but Lew also delved briefly into technology-related topics in both his oral testimony and written answers to Senators' questions. As OMB director, he will manage both federal CIO Vivek Kundra and have oversight over the federal government's $82 billion IT budget.

Performance management has recently become an increasingly important priority for government IT, but Lew said that more needs to be done, and dismissed as ineffective a methodology, the Program Assessment Rating Tool, developed by the Bush administration. "We still haven't gotten to the point where [performance management] is so tightly connected with core objectives, with what agencies are trying to do, that it helps focus them," he said. "It still needs the attention of the director and deputy director."

Lew said in written comments that he does not see a need to codify the federal CIO position. However, he did seem to peg IT as a high priority, saying that he would encourage CIOs to run TechStat-like, statistics-based management review sessions of IT projects within their own agencies and to use them to complement annual budget submission processes. He also noted that the OMB and CIO Council will, by mid-October, finalize recommendations to improve IT management and procurement practices in government.

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