Senators show commitment to DATA Act implementation … will OMB follow suit?

A view looking up at the Capitol with a black background covered in code behind it.
Photo credit: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Yesterday, two Senate committees considered President Obama’s nomination of Shaun Donovan to head up the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Donovan, who currently serves as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, went before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) in the morning and the Budget Committee in the afternoon.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), a former OMB Director and one of the original Senate cosponsors of the DATA Act, and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who helped shepherd the DATA Act through HSGAC, made it clear that they are committed to embracing their oversight role and ensuring that the DATA Act is effectively implemented. Unfortunately, Donovan’s level of knowledge, and OMB’s level of commitment, was a bit less obvious.

Coburn, ranking member of HSGAC, asked Donovan to directly state that he was committed to meeting the timelines for implementation set out in the DATA Act. Donovan waffled a bit, saying that he is still “getting up to speed” on the complicated issue, but that he is committed to working closely with Congress to achieve the goals of the bill.

Portman received a similar response from Donovan, although his line of questioning exposed some potentially interesting information. Portman expressed disappointment with OMB’s actions since the DATA Act’s passage and urged Donovan to take steps to drive implementation of the DATA Act from the director’s office if he is confirmed. It is very concerning to hear that Senator Portman is already seeing disturbing signs out of OMB at this early stage in the implementation game.

Donovan’s answers were not always encouraging, but he did seem willing to work with Congress moving forward. Hopefully Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will take Donovan up on his offer to come back and testify before them more specifically about the DATA Act in the near future.

Meanwhile, we will be keeping our eyes on OMB, looking for any signs that they are seeking to shirk the DATA Act’s requirements.