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Potential OMB leader's record shows tilt toward outsourcing, federal workforce reduction

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on FCW.com

President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the Office of Management and Budget does not have a long record on IT issues, but his time in Congress suggests an interest in cutting spending, outsourcing to the private sector and shrinking the federal workforce by attrition.

If confirmed by the Senate, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) will oversee government-wide policy on procurement, IT, personnel management and regulatory affairs, in addition to managing the administration’s budget.

While Mulvaney has a reputation as a tight-fisted spender and staunch opponent of adding to the federal debt, his stances on management and federal IT are less clear. However, Mulvaney’s work as a member of the Government Operations subcommittee of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee offers some insight into management and workforce issues he might address as OMB director.

Procurement is one area where Mulvaney might push for change. In a July 2016 hearing on contracting, Mulvaney indicated an interest in reviving A-76 competitions, named for the A-76 OMB circular, which allow private contractors to bid on some work that is done by federal employees. Such competitions were administratively eliminated before the start of the Obama administration, and legislatively proscribed since a 2011 appropriations bill. It would take movement from Congress, but also an appetite on the administrative side from OMB, to bring back A-76 competitions.

Executive accountability could be another focal point. In a June 2015 hearing about the Office of Personnel Management breach that exposed sensitive information of 22 million individuals, Mulvaney was pointedly critical of former OPM director Katherine Archuleta's management. In particular, Mulvaney drilled in on whether Archuleta stood by a 2014 assertion that the lack of valid authority to operate certification for some OPM systems was a "material weakness," as the OPM inspector general had said.

And in an April 2015 hearing on government duplication, Mulvaney's questions probed whether asked GAO head Gene Dodaro how Congress could reduce duplication, and how the Department of Defense could cost-effectively improve its weapons acquisition program.

In hearings more narrowly focused on IT, such as FITARA and cybersecurity at the Department of Interior, Mulvaney does not appear in the official record as asking questions of witnesses.

And while Mulvaney hasn't had much sponsored legislation passed into law, he has introduced several bills to shrink the size and spending of government.

The Reducing the Size of the Federal Government Through Attrition Act of 2011 proposed reducing the number of federal employees to 90 percent of the government's Sept. 30, 2011, level. That bill also would have limited agencies to one new hire for every three departures and prorated service contract spending to match the reduction in spending from shrinking the workforce.

Mulvaney sponsored two other bills -- the Subcontracting Transparency and Reliability Act of 2012 and the Federal Improper Payments Coordination Act of 2015 -- that were, respectively, aimed at making sure contractors provided agreed-upon services and reducing government spending.

None of these bills made it to a vote.

Democrats in the House already have raised questions about what Trump's pick may mean for OMB.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who serves on the Oversight Committee with Mulvaney, praised Mulvaney’s "analytical mind," which he told FCW "will serve him well at OMB."

However, Connolly expressed concern that Mulvaney's dogmatic commitment to unilaterally cutting costs and taxes would interfere with the mission of OMB.

"I think the real test for Mick will be, will you put ideology over pragmatism, or will you be an honest broker at OMB and make the moving parts work?" Connolly said.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), meanwhile, called Trump’s choice "surprising."

"In Congress, Rep. Mulvaney has been among the most vocal opponents of government investment in our economy," said Hoyer in a statement. "Mulvaney and House Republicans will soon be forced to reconcile these priorities with Mr. Trump's proposed increases in spending," which include reviews of the government’s cybersecurity posture, defense expansions and the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico.

On the Republican side of the aisle, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) praised the "terrific selection."

"Mick is whip-smart and has been deeply involved in the budget process from day one to establish a more effective and accountable government through fiscal restraint and responsibility," he said. "In leading [OMB], he is prepared to reform our regulatory process to empower Congress and ultimately the American people."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

Reader Comments

Wed, Dec 21, 2016

He will gut flaccid contracts. He will probably can those responsible for acquisition situations that are FUBAR. Little grace, but lots of action is his modus operandi.

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