Jeffrey D. Zients will take over as acting head of the White House's Office of Management and Budget, according to news reports. Current director Peter Orszag's final day is today. President Obama has nominated Jacob "Jack" Lew to succeed Orszag, but the post requires Senate confirmation. Zients is currently deputy director of OMB for management and Obama's first-ever government performance officer.
Zients may hold the job for only a few weeks, but his record suggests he's up to a challenge. In a Fiscal Times profile of Zients in June, he said his mandate is to make government open, efficient and “cool again,” by stimulating lasting change in the multitude of federal agencies, with the potential to save hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decade.
"Organizations often spend too much time thinking about and planning and preparing for change management," Zients said. "The best way to change is to begin to change, and then to celebrate those early wins. That builds a natural momentum."
Zients, the married father of four young children, left the private sector because of his admiration for Obama and concern that the country was at a pivotal time in its history, with a $1.4 trillion deficit. OMB is his first foray into government, but Zients grew up in DC and served as a management consultant and then chairman of the Advisory Board and Corporate Executive Board. The jobs left him wealthy and he started his own investment firm.
In an exit interview with Politico, Orszag discussed the balance between policy and management, and life in the gossip columns. “It’s unfortunate that my personal life was discussed in the tabloids, but what I think was the correct response was just to focus on continuing and doing my work and that’s what I did,” he said.
In addition, Rob Nabors will return to OMB to be acting deputy director. Nabors, the former staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, has been an adviser to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Jeff Liebman, who held the deputy post, is planning to return to Harvard.
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