Transition Watch | Orszag to head OMB under Obama

President-elect Barack Obama today named economist Peter Orszag as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Orszag has directed the Congressional Budget Office since January 2007 and frequently testifies before Congress on CBO's program analyses and cost estimates.

Obama said Orszag is "one of our nation's leading voices on budgetary issues." The Senate must have to approve Orszag's nomination.

Obama also selected Rob Nabors, the staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, as OMB's deputy director.

Obama said in his administration, OMB would not only help design the federal budget and manage its implementation, but will also help ensure government is more effective and efficient. Orszag agrees that even as the incoming administration takes steps to restore discipline to the budget, it must also solve the immediate economic crisis, Obama said.

"Peter doesn't need a map to tell him where the bodies are buried in the federal budget. He knows what works and what doesn't, what is worthy of our precious tax dollars and what is not," Obama said. A program, special interest tax break or corporate subsidy that is tucked into this year's budget might not survive in the next budget, he added.

Obama said his economic team will go through the federal budget, "page by page, line by line," and eliminate unnecessary programs and insist that those necessary operate in a "sensible, cost-effective way."

"This isn't about big government or small government. It's about building a smarter government that focuses on what works," he said.

" ... When we are facing both rising deficits and a sinking economy, budget reform is not an option. It is an imperative," Obama said. "We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politician, lobbyist or interest group."

Reacting to Orszag's nomination, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and that panel's ranking member, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said Orszag has worked closely with senators and their staffs to analyze legislative options and bills, and frequently testified before the panel on the likely economic effects of proposals.

"This difficult time calls for smart, straightforward leaders on the nation's economic team, and Peter's credentials are evident to us and to our colleagues on the committee," they said in a statement.

During Orszag's tenure, the CBO has expanded its focus on areas such as health care and climate change, Obama said. Previously, Orszag served in the Clinton administration as special assistant to the president for economic policy and then as senior adviser and senior economist at the President's Council of Economic Advisers. He was a senior fellow and deputy director of economic studies at the Brookings Institution.

Orszag received a bachelor's degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in economics from the London School of Economics.

The new deputy director, Nabors, is responsible for the hiring and direction of the majority staff of the appropriations committee and for recommending overall legislative strategies related to discretionary spending to the committee's Democrats and the House Democratic Leadership. Previously, he served in OMB as the senior adviser to the director and as the assistant director for administration and executive secretary.

Nabors received a bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master's degree from the University of North Carolina.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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