Woe unto those that fail to please the House Appropriations Committee.

For a case study of what can make the committee cranky, take a look at the recently approved fiscal 2005 spending bill for the departments of Transportation and Treasury and general government accounts.

"The committee is disturbed to note the serious decline in the quality of budget justification material submitted this year," a report accompanying the $89.9 billion spending bill said.

The committee complained that "detailed tables" providing information on the finances and staffing at several federal agencies "have been minimized or eliminated."

In the future, the report said, "agencies are directed to refrain from including substantial amounts of performance data within the budget justifications themselves, and to instead revert to the traditional funding information previously provided."

Of the dozens of agencies financed by the treasury-transportation bill, the Office of Personnel Management, in particular, seems to have drawn the committee's ire.

Under the bill, the OPM's budget would rise by about $1.6 million, to more than $120 million. But the bill would provide about $10 million less than the president recommended.

If Congress goes along with the committee's spending plan, the OPM may find it harder to steer the White House's personnel policies, continue work on five electronic government initiatives and help the departments of Defense and Homeland Security set up their new personnel systems.

In its report, the House Appropriations Committee listed seven program areas where it suggested budget and staff changes, mostly reductions, could be made by the OPM.

While providing Kay Coles James, the OPM director, some flexibility to allocate part of the funds being provided, the committee directed her to submit an operating plan for fiscal 2005 to Congress within 60 days of the bill's enactment.

"The committee finds that the budget justification materials are severely lacking in any real detail about the programs proposed or underway at OPM and the resources involved," the report said. "Many of the verbose descriptions in the budget justification did not provide concrete information on the programs, activities and funding requirements and changes to OPM's work."

The committee, however, proposed providing $16.4 million to the "Human Capital Performance Fund" to reward, with higher pay raises, the government's best workers. That's far less than the $300 million sought by the Bush administration, but substantially more than the $994,000 that the fund received last year.

Susan Bryant, an OPM spokeswoman, said: "It is our belief that resources for this agency will align with these congressional expectations and the president's mark [budget request]. We believe the president's mark will adequately meet OPM's needs during the coming fiscal year."


Carol Cohen, secretary to Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, retires today after 41 years with the federal government, including 17 years with the judge.

Gene Devine retires today from the National Security Division of the Office of Management and Budget. He has been an economist with the OMB for more than 26 years, working on military manpower and compensation policy, and has almost 33 years of federal service.

Tansill Johnson, chief of public communications for the Army Materiel Command at Fort Belvoir, retires today after almost 35 years of federal service with the Army. For the last nine years, she has managed public affairs and congressional liaison as well as industry outreach.

Susan Williams, a senior compliance program analyst with the Internal Revenue Service, retires today after more than 33 years of federal service.

Talk Shows

Michael Dole, director of workforce analysis and evaluation at the Veterans Affairs Department, and Delia L. Johnson, director of the office of civil rights at the International Broadcasting Bureau, will be the guests on "FEDtalk" at 11 a.m. today on federalnewsradio.com.

Steven O. App, chief financial officer at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., will be the guest on "The Business of Government Radio Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

"A Federal Employee and a Political Convention Delegate?" will be the topic for discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com