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Nominee for OMB budget post underscores management issues

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President Obama’s choice for deputy budget director spent a fair amount of time discussing the need for tighter management during a confirmation hearing today.

During a period of fiscal challenges, a key focus “has got to be making our government more efficient and more effective,” Brian Deese told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. President Obama nominated Deese,  previously a top White House economic aide, last month for the post of deputy budget director at the Office of Management and Budget. The person holding that job “plays an important role in setting those (management side) priorities and also  in making sure that we as a team at OMB would be well-positioned to execute on those,” he said.

In replies to written questions released at the hearing, Deese added that “greater focus on evidence in budgeting” will ensure effective government spending.   If confirmed, Deese said he would work closely with OMB’s deputy director for management. That post has been vacant since Jeff Zients left last month; Obama has not yet named a replacement.

Deese served as deputy director of the National Economic Council from January 2011 until March; since then, he has been at OMB as a counselor to the director. If confirmed, he would replace Heather Higginbottom, who left in February for a job at the State Department.

No significant opposition has emerged so far to his nomination. At today’s hearing, committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., praised Deese as someone who understands the importance of innovation, both in saving money and in delivering better public services. Besides Carper, only Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., attended. A spokesman for the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, did not reply to voicemails asking the reason for his boss’s absence.

The Senate Budget Committee, which also has jurisdiction over Deese’s nomination, plans its own confirmation hearing later this month, a spokeswoman said.

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