White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan is likely to recommend to President Reagan today that Federal Trade Commission Chairman James C. Miller III be nominated director of the Office of Management and Budget, White House officials said yesterday.
Regan is said to be taking the president a list that also includes two other possible nominees, Alton G. Keel Jr., now associate director of OMB for national security and international affairs, and John A. (Jack) Svahn, the chief White House domestic affairs adviser.
But White House officials said "it appeared likely" that Regan will recommend Miller to the president, and a decision is expected from Reagan today. The post requires Senate confirmation.
OMB Director David A. Stockman resigned, effective Aug. 1, to join the Wall Street investment banking firm of Salomon Brothers.
Presidential spokesman Larry Speakes said yesterday that Regan was still interviewing candidates, and that a recommendation had yet to be sent to the president, who is recuperating from intestinal surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital. As of yesterday, Speakes said, "no one has been offered the job."
Miller, 43, was a contender for the labor secretary post that eventually went to William E. Brock. He has been chairman of the Federal Trade Commission since 1981, after serving as the chief OMB official in charge of Reagan's deregulatory efforts.
In that capacity, Miller had wide-ranging authority to scrutinize existing regulations and review new ones. He helped draft one of Reagan's first executive orders, No. 12291, which gave the budget office authority to clear all new regulations before they are published in the Federal Register.
The order contributed to making OMB one of the most powerful federal agencies -- a standing that was further enhanced by Stockman's paring of other agencies' budgets in the early years of the administration.
In 1981, Miller was appointed by Stockman to head the new Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB, which also oversaw the Paperwork Reduction Act which President Carter signed in 1980.
In addition, Miller became executive director of the President's Task Force on Regulatory Relief, chaired by Vice President Bush. The task force reviewed existing regulations, but critics have questioned its true effectiveness in significantly rolling them back.
The former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Murray L. Weidenbaum, has written that the administration's deregulatory effort "failed to meet the high hopes of regulatory reform enthusiasts and the fears of defenders" of existing regulations.
Miller was, however, at the front lines of the administration's effort to scale back dozens of regulations regarding the environment, job safety, and transportation that brought opposition from consumer and other groups -- and approval from many industry executives.
An economist, Miller was earlier a resident scholar and codirector of the Center for the Study of Government Regulation at the American Enterprise Institute. Miller has also worked for the Transportation Department, the Council of Economic Advisers, and the Council on Wage and Price Stability.
Regan has said he wants a new budget director who is familiar with the government but is willing to assume a lower profile than the often-outspoken Stockman, who issued frequent alarms, publicly and privately, about the growing deficit.
Regan has indicated that he wants to bring into the White House more of the key decisions on policy, and that he is looking for a budget director who will shape the budget around those decisions. By contrast, Stockman was a powerful, independent force in fashioning a broad range of domestic policy through his budget and regulatory decisions.