President Barack Obama’s nominee for deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget is ready to be a “front line leader” for the presidential transition if he gets the job.
Andrew Mayock, a senior adviser to OMB Director Shaun Donovan, moved one step closer toward that role July 6 when the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved his nomination.
“Mr. Mayock is not only well-qualified to serve in this role, but, I believe, he will bring a unique and valuable perspective to this position,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the committee, in a release after Wednesday’s vote. “Given his clear qualifications and the critical role this position plays in the successful transition to the next administration, I urge the full Senate to take up and confirm Mr. Mayock’s nomination before we leave town for the upcoming recess.”
The Senate is scheduled to go on a seven-week recess starting July 16.
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The Senate placed Mayock’s nomination on its calendar, but it’s unclear when a vote will occur.
While Mayock waits for the Senate to act, he is actively working to help agencies prepare for the change in administration.
Mayock laid out his plans June 28 to the Senate committee where he promised to serve a major role in ensuring continuity between the outbound and incoming presidents.
“I think the most important thing that you can do during the time that you have left is pass along that learning, that eight years of an administration, so that we don’t pick up from where we were before, so that we have best practices, and I think we all know that there’s room for improvement in management of federal agencies,” Mayock said.
One new tool in OMB’s toolkit is the Edward Kaufman and Michael Leavitt Presidential Transitions Improvements Act, which President Barack Obama signed in March. Under the law, each agency must designate a senior career employee to oversee transition activities.
“The fact that we’re able to do this and do it smoothly, and without issue from one party to the next, is just an extraordinary feat of American democracy, and it’s an extraordinary role to potentially have in confirmed in this position to be one of the main stewards of this law,” Mayock said.
In order to achieve a seamless transition between presidential administrations, Mayock emphasized the need for agencies to revisit the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List.
“I think where there’s agency-specific issues on the High Risk List — whether it’s weather satellites at Commerce or mental health at the Veterans Affairs Department — that should be high, high, high in the transition document, whether you’re agency landing team and you’re coming in on Nov. 9 or Nov. 10 and you’re finding out what are the highest priorities issues,” Mayock said. “GAO High-Risk List: if you’re on it, you ought to know about it as you cross that doorstep. Same thing on Jan. 20, that senior leadership needs to have visibility on that, that senior leadership needs to know that there’s a date coming at which they’re going to be read-in on that.”
In addition to being a “front line leader” on the transition, Mayock said he would focus on cybersecurity and revamping the security clearance process,
Mayock said he would build on the “measurable progress” made by Obama administration on cross-agency priority goals, such as improving citizen-facing services, reducing the federal real property footprint, and improving the federal acquisition process.
“We need to tee up the experience of the last seven and eight years so that our successors have an opportunity to learn from that, and learn quickly from that, as they try to figure out, you know, where the bathroom is how turn on and off the lights, and they get hit by a thousand urgent tasks and emergencies,” Mayock said. “How we’re able to tee that up and move that quickly, expeditiously, coherently to them is a really important task. We want that next team to be able to set up a President’s Management Agenda in the next three months, not the first two years.”
Meanwhile, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) presented Mayock with a laundry list of concerns raised by federal managers, such as shortening the period of administrative leave for employees accused of wrongdoing, and expediting the federal hiring process.
“There’s a very long delay, whether that is an administrative role or whether that’s a forklift operator at one of our federal facilities, it seems to be around four months to be able to do a hiring, and that’s a very long time,” Lankford said.
He added that many federal mangers expressed a “tremendous amount of disdain” for USAJobs.gov, and hoped to reform the veterans preference component of federal hiring.
“They complained that after a long search, they may end up with a veteran candidate for positions that are not specifically matched to their skill set, and it’s frustrating for that veteran and for them,” Lankford said.
Mayock responded that he, if confirmed, would have a great partner in acting Office of Personnel Management Director Beth Cobert, and praised her Hiring Excellence campaign.
“I think through this Hiring Excellence campaign, we’re working through a number of these issues —the paperwork, the compliance aspect, the rotation opportunities or a piece of all of that. I think it’s an excellent campaign, a comprehensive campaign. It’s something that we’d like to, as we think about the last six months of the administration, perhaps put special emphasis on and really double down on,” Mayock said.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also expressed concern over 48 potential “midnight regulations” that she said could get rushed through approval between Election Day and Inauguration Day.
Mayock assured her that those pending regulations would receive due diligence from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Howard Shelanski, director of OIRA, sent a memo to cabinet secretaries in December 2015 saying that 2016 would “be a business-as-usual year,” and that it wouldn’t try to push through regulations before the end of the Obama administration.
Mayock also expressed the need for a better transition of institutional knowledge between administrations.
“There’s a lot of institutional knowledge as far as memory, but not a lot of institutional knowledge in documentation as to how a transition runs, and runs smoothly. So we’re doing a bit of reinventing the wheel that should be entirely unnecessary in this process. That’s a risk, a challenge I think that we’ll overcome,” Mayock said.