OMB, VA turn to experienced executives to hold down the fort

Patience is hard sometimes. This is especially true with a new administration, as we all are waiting for some signals or idea of what the new management agenda will look like.

There have been a few clues, such as the hiring freeze and the draft executive order on approaches to reorganizing agencies.

President Donald Trump will send his fiscal 2018 budget request to Congress around March 13, so that will offer a few more details.

In the meantime, here is a tidbit we recently learned: Linda Springer is working at the Office of Management and Budget as the senior adviser to the director for management.

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Could that be a precursor position to becoming the nominee to be OMB’s deputy director for management?

Springer, who served in OMB as the controller and as the head of the Office of Personnel Management under the administration of President George W. Bush, may just be a placeholder, bringing some much-needed government management experience to the administration. She is working closely with Dustin Brown, the acting DDM.

Brown, a career employee, served as the deputy associate director for performance and personnel at OMB since 2007.

Springer is the third management type that we know about now. Emily Murphy came over from the House Armed Services Committee to work on acquisition issues at the General Services Administration, and Joshua Steinman could be the next White House cyber coordinator.
Springer’s position at OMB is noteworthy for several reasons.

With the limited number of political appointees, particularly deputy secretaries and assistant secretaries for management, in place, she brings the historical understanding and management experience to ensure agencies have direction, especially as the fiscal 2018 budget request is finalized.

Before coming back to OMB, Springer was the executive director of the government and public sector practice for Ernst and Young since 2008.

Does the fact Springer is the senior adviser mean she will be OMB DDM? It’s hard to say. We’ve seen over the years people like Anne Rung or Andrew Mayock serve in adviser roles before being nominated to political positions — Rung as administrator in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and Mayock as DDM.

Then again, with a limited number of Trump administration politicals who have experience in government and fewer on the beachhead teams, having someone like Springer to get the management side through the first three-to-six months is a logical choice.

As one industry observer told me recently, the community understands the need for patience, especially around topics such as procurement, technology and human resources, but if there aren’t real signs by early summer, don’t be surprised to see the patience run out and frustration boil over to Capitol Hill.

With Mick Mulvaney confirmed by the Senate to be OMB director, it hopefully will not be too long until we know more about the critical positions such as DDM, federal chief information officer, OFPP administrator and deputy director for budget.

The Veterans Affairs Department is making some progress in filling positions.

David Shulkin, VA’s secretary, said Feb. 24 that Scott Blackburn will be the acting deputy secretary starting Feb. 26.

Blackburn comes to VA after spending the last two-plus years as the executive director of the MyVA Taskforce.

Before that, he worked at McKinsey and company and served in the Army for four years before leaving after achieving the rank of captain.

“With his help, we will build upon the progress we have already made together. Scott is a trusted leader and I know he will do a fantastic job,” Shulkin said in a statement.

At the same time, Bob Snyder, the VA chief of staff, will retire on March 4.

Snyder has been with VA for eight years, serving as the executive director of MyVA first and then moving to be chief of staff.

“Bob has been committed to making the transition from one administration to the next as smooth as possible. During the time of transition, Bob stepped in as acting secretary, and true to form, he continued to make tough calls, putting Veterans first,” Shulkin said. “VA employees and veterans alike owe him gratitude for his many years of service and contributions.”

Shulkin said Vivieca Wright-Simpson will serve as the interim VA chief of staff starting on Feb. 26.
Wright-Simpson previously served as Veterans Health Administration chief of staff and a variety of senior roles both at the VA central office and in the field.

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