Spring is the season of the chase for Office of Management and Budget employes. During the fall, while they set out their views of national priorities in preparing the federal budget, other people in Washington ask them what's happening. In the spring, with the budget in Congress' hands, the OMB's staff is busy chasing a dozen committees and subcommittees, trying to keep up with the flow of legislation and amendments.
The general idea of the exercise is to report, quickly, the budgetary impact of pending legislation. In practice it means endless hours shuttling between calculator and computer as OMB employes figure the cost of pending immigration, housing and health insurance proposals.
"We have to figure how much an idea will cost, how many people are concerned, the impact on the deficit and so on," said OMB spokesman Edwin L. Dale Jr. "There's a lot of energy spent scorekeeping."
BREATHE DEEPLY . . . Never let it be said that warring bureaucrats can't inject a little levity into their debates.
Christopher DeMuth, head of the OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, argues at regular intervals with Occupational Safety and Health Administration head Thorne G. Auchter over the most cost-efficient way to protect workers from airborne contaminants.
Auchter maintains that individual respirators, while cheaper than devices that clean the air mechanically, can prove unnecessarily cumbersome and hinder a worker's ability to do his job. DeMuth remains unconvinced. So Auchter ordered his staff to find the most cumbersome respirator around.
When they found it, he gave it to DeMuth, daring him to talk through the complex filter apparatus. DeMuth reportedly failed the test, but now displays the full face-mask respirator on a credenza in his office.
TRY, TRY, TRY AGAIN . . . Since the Reagan administration took office, OMB deregulators have been hankering to gain review authority--and some measure of control--over rules generated by independent agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission.
Because the agencies are independent, however, they are exempt from the ordinary regulatory review process, unless the rules in question contain a request for information. In those cases, the Paperwork Reduction Act gives the OMB authority to second-guess the agency.
That's not good enough for some top OMB officials, who have asked recently for a study on whether judicious budget and personnel cuts would reduce the number of rules an agency can issue, particularly the ones the OMB doesn't like.
SHUFFLE AND DEAL . . . Over on the budget side, a round of musical chairs is under way. Kenneth Clarkson, associate director for human resources, veterans and labor--the welfare, health, unemployment and benefit programs that comprise about half the federal budget--is moving to the International Institute for Law and Economics. He will be replaced by John F. Cogan, who came to the OMB from the Labor Department earlier this year to take Annelise G. Anderson's job as associate director for economics and government. As of next month, the economics and government post will be held by Constance Horner, who moves over from Action.