Dale R. McOmber, former OMB official, dies at 87

September 24, 2011

Dale R. McOmber, 87, a former assistant director of the Office of Management and Budget who helped prepare federal budgets for seven presidents, died Aug. 22 at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He had complications from a broken hip, son James McOmber said.

After coming to Washington in 1951, Mr. McOmber worked as a budget analyst for the Navy Department’s old Bureau of Ordnance. He joined the Bureau of the Budget, later known as the Office of Management and Budget, in 1957.

He became the OMB’s assistant director for budget review in 1973 and had a key role in preparing the annual federal budget. He often appeared before congressional committees delving into federal budgetary matters.

Mr. McOmber received the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Service from Presidents Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter. He also received the National Civil Service Award for Sustained Excellence.

After retiring from the OMB in 1981, Mr. McOmber consulted on international budgetary matters in Guatemala, Kuwait, Liberia, Venezuela and Ukraine, among other places. He also analyzed the operations of federal agencies in the United States.

A Wall Street Journal article in 1981 depicted Mr. McOmber as a self-effacing public servant who was described by a colleague as “the George Smiley of domestic politics,” referring to the mild-mannered spy in a series of novels by John le Carre. The article said Mr. McOmber “emerged from his career knowing better than anyone else what is changeless about the budget process.”

According to the Journal article, Mr. McOmber attempted to maintain political neutrality in the budgetary process, regardless of the party in office.

Dale Robert McOmber was born Oct. 3, 1923, in Scott, Ohio. He interrupted his studies at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University to serve as an Army artillery observer and surveyor in Europe during World War II.

After the war, he returned to Bowling Green, from which he received a bachelor’s degree and, in 1949, a master’s degree in government. He taught at his alma mater for several years before coming to Washington.

Mr. McOmber lived in Springfield and Annandale before retiring to the Greenspring Village retirement facility in Springfield in 2004. He and his wife provided free tax preparation services to the elderly under a program sponsored by AARP and the Internal Revenue Service.

His wife of 52 years, Joan Brant McOmber, died in 2003.

His companion of the past few years, Mildred Feichtinger, died in April.

Survivors include four children, Marcia Hayes of Ruther Glen, Va., Jennifer Lessard of Centreville, D. Robert McOmber of Vienna and James McOmber of Alexandria; four brothers; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Matt Schudel has been an obituary writer at The Washington Post since 2004.