Inside OMB: Politics and Process in the President's Budget Office

Inside OMB: Politics and Process in the President's Budget Office

Inside OMB: Politics and Process in the President's Budget Office

Inside OMB: Politics and Process in the President's Budget Office

Synopsis

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) occupies a critical juncture in relations between the office of the President, the Executive Branch, and Congress. Through its budgetary, managerial, and regulatory review mandates, it can function as an "enforcer" with a significant impact on public policy and its implementation_ Despite this, OMB has maintained a low profile in recent years, and has eluded focused attention. Remarkably, this is the fast study of OMB to appear in nearly two decades-a time of momentous change both in presidential-congressional relations and in U.S. budgetary politics, including the short-lived line-item veto. The book will be extremely useful not just to students of public policy but to anyone trying to work effectively with federal, state, or local budget offices.

Excerpt

They are the president's surrogates, the executive branch's nemeses, and the Congress's competitors. Responsible for budgets, management, some statistical services, and procurement, they coordinate policy initiatives of the executive departments and agencies, provide liaison on budgetary and appropriation matters with Congress, and oversee the executive branch's regulatory activities. They enforce precedent, meet bottom lines, and find buried bones all over the government. Often regarded as the people who say "NO," they are the feared overseers of presidents, and their executive branch enforcers. They are the 500+ policy analysts, managers, and political appointees who comprise the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The OMB is the largest single unit in the Executive Office of the President. Created in 1921 by the Budget and Accounting Act, it was moved from the Treasury Department to the Executive Office in 1939 when the latter was created by President Franklin Roosevelt. It has been part of the presidency ever since. A very powerful agency, its influence stems largely from the ongoing support it receives from presidents, from its closed-door mode of operation, and from the critical nature of its central concerns--policy making, implementation, and budgeting.

Presidents have found the OMB to be a useful constraint on the executive departments and agencies, reining in the latter's turf-building and advocacy tendencies, countering their clientele's pressures, and impacting on the resiliency of the bureaucracy's standard operating procedures. They have also found the OMB's informational and analytic capabilities essential for their own decision making and decision defending, and its institutional memory a valuable beacon for navigating unchartered waters, particularly at the beginning of their administrations. The OMB has also served as a convenient target for criticism aimed at presidents, as a "fall guy" for the administration.

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