Obama Budget Nominee to Focus on Government Efficiency

(Corrects relationship with Burwell in fifth paragraph.)

President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget said he’ll look for savings in government programs that would be better spent on education and other priorities.

Shaun Donovan, the current secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said he intends to put the “M” back into the OMB. He said he’ll use analytic tools and metrics to measure whether programs are working, and trim, consolidate or eliminate those that don’t.

“I like data and management,” Donovan told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee at his confirmation hearing. “I’m actually passionate about it at HUD and drive my team crazy over it.”

Donovan, 48, an Obama confidant, was nominated May 23 to serve as director of White House budget office, replacing Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the budget chief since April 2013, who he has known since both were students at Harvard University. Burwell was nominated to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

Donovan’s shift to a critical cabinet post keeps an Obama loyalist in the presidential orbit of trusted officials. He joined Obama as secretary of HUD when the president took office in 2009.

While Obama’s relations with congressional Republicans are strained, Donovan hasn’t had any major fights with Congress, though his portfolio will now add more testy issues such as spending and taxes. Donovan was confirmed for his current housing position by unanimous consent.

Approval Forecast

“I have no doubt you’re going to be approved” for confirmation, said Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the committee. Donovan is “responsive to Congress, and I can’t say that about every member of this cabinet,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.

Donovan defended the principles of Obama’s $3.9 trillion budget for 2015, which begins Oct. 1. He said the budget deficit has been cut in half in five years, as a percentage of the economy, yet the nation must still make investments in education, research and development to maintain its competitiveness with overseas rivals.

He said he would work toward a “commonsense balance” between the cost of federal regulations and the need to protect air and water.

Donovan said his data-driven approach at HUD led to a consolidation of 13 rental assistance programs “that sometimes aren’t logical.” He cleared the way for small mortgage lenders to use “e-signatures” to cut costs. Collins cited a reduction in homelessness by 16 percent and a 24 percent reduction among homeless veterans.

Fourth Director

If confirmed, Donovan would be Obama’s fourth director, after Peter Orszag, Jack Lew and Burwell.

Some budget experts in Washington doubt that Donovan will accomplish much at Office of Management and Budget because the presidential elections are a little more than two years away.

The president’s upcoming budgets, for fiscal 2016 and 2017 “will be released by a lame duck president and sent to Congress that is not likely to take them even slightly seriously,” said Stan Collender, a budget expert and executive vice president at Qorvis MSLGroup, wrote in Forbes magazine May 27.

Donovan faces a confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee later today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roger Runningen in Washington at rrunningen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.