The newest section of the fiscal 1986 budget, expected to make its debut on Capitol Hill about Feb. 4, is producing some of its biggest headaches. This is the section required by last summer's Deficit Reduction Act, which ordered agencies to cut their current budgets for travel, printing, consultants and other specified items -- or justify why they can't. Agencies also must provide an itemized accounting of savings that could be realized from recommendations made by the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control, more commonly known as the Grace Commission.
The section, now 90 percent complete, was the subject of considerable controversy. The Treasury Department, for instance, was targeted for a $130 million cut in current services, in part because much of the Bureau of the Mint's budget for printing currency had been included in its cost of printing publications. After that fact became known, the cut in Treasury's budget was reduced considerably.
But in the meantime, the Office of Management and Budget continues its battle with the Defense Department to cut $2 billion from the current budget. Part of that fight involves the law's definition of "consultant," and part is based on Defense's position as the government's biggest user of consultants, a source said. But DOD is also the biggest user of most of the affected items, including motor pools, travel and transportation, and printing and advertising. So far, apparently, DOD has failed to counter-propose acceptable cuts; its answer to OMB seems to be simply "No."
"There are minor problems still to be ironed out with almost every agency," said one official. "But there are major problems with Defense."
Along with the proposed budgetary recissions being sent to Capitol Hill, there will be a three-part table of Grace Commission recommendations. The first part will summarize recommendations that the Reagan administration feels it has already made; the second, recommendations being proposed for the fiscal 1986 budget; and the third, recommendations on which a decision has been postponed. PREGNANT PAUSE . . .
President Reagan hasn't signed off yet on OMB's proposal to let its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs police not only agencies' new rules but also their annual regulatory agendas. The change would give OIRA something it has wanted for months: the chance to offer its opinion on a regulatory proposal before the proposal had a firm constituency both inside and outside of government.
The change is vehemently opposed by some agencies and interested congressmen. OIRA Deputy Director Robert P. Bedell said yesterday that he still believes presidential approval of the new policy is imminent but added that he has thought approval was imminent since well before Christmas. STAY TUNED, REG REVIEW FANS . . .
Executive Order 12291, a camel whose unwanted nose has found its way into many government tents, is now sniffing around procurement regulations for the first time in its nearly four-year history. The order giving the OIRA broad authority to scrutinize rules originally exempted all procurement actions, but OMB Director David A. Stockman, in a Dec. 13 memo acquired by the private group OMB Watch, says the OIRA will review certain procurement rules pertaining to selection of a contractor and payments for work still in progress, as well as rules that resulted from three pieces of procurement legislation last year. (OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy coordinates procurement rules, but does not clear them in advance the way the OIRA does with other rules.)
In a beautifully broad addendum, the memo says, "agencies may be required to comply with . . . Executive Order 12291 on an ad hoc basis; i.e. the exemption may be withdrawn for specific issues."