Most Americans only hear about the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) when there are disputes over budget numbers. However, for those who are unfamiliar with the differences between the two, here's a brief summary:
The CBO's mandate, according to its 'fact sheet' is as follows:
To provide Congress with
- Objective, nonpartisan, and timely analyses to aid in economic and budgetary decisions on the wide array of programs covered by the federal budget and
- the information and estimates required for the Congressional budget process.
The OMB's mission, on the other hand, is not to be non-partisan:
The core mission of OMB is to serve the President of the United States in implementing his vision across the Executive Branch. OMB is the largest component of the Executive Office of the President. It reports directly to the President and helps a wide range of executive departments and agencies across the Federal Government to implement the commitments and priorities of the President.
So, when we hear the President, during a State of the Union Address, touting one set of numbers—from the OMB—and Congress using a different set of numbers, that's usually why.
Now, it appears, those differences in budget numbers are about to get a whole lot bigger—especially once the union bosses at the AFL-CIO gets their hands on them.
According to ABC News' Jake Tapper and Rich Klein, the American Federation of Government Employees (part of the AFL-CIO) has filed (or will on Monday) a petition to unionize the employees of the Office of Management and Budget:
As soon as today employees of the Office of Management and Budget will file a petition to unionize, ABC News has learned.
Peter Winch, deputy director of field services and education for the American Federation of Government Employees confirmed to ABC News that his organization, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, has been meeting with employees of the OMB in the past few months to discuss their work conditions and desire to have more say over the conditions of their employment.
Enough employees – more than 30% -- are interested for a union to be formed, he said. The union would be for mid- and lower-level employees.
Winch said that while the employees generally like their work at OMB, even with long hours and working on weekends, “there have been reorganizations they would have liked to have had more voice over.”
Winch expressed concern that ABC News would report the story – first learned from other sources – before the union could officially inform OMB management.
The federal government is required to stay neutral on any petition for its employees to join a union.
Now, one might think, so what's the big deal? Another agency unionized under the most pro-union President since Franklin Roosevelt...
Well, you might harkin back to a few months ago when Executive Order 13522 was brought to your attention. Executive Order 13522, signed by President Obama back in 2009 and clarified in a January, 2011 OMB letter (below), gives unions in the Executive Branch agencies the right to engage in "pre-decisional involvement" over a wide array of governmental decision making:
One example of an opportunity for pre-decisional involvement is the annual budget process. The Executive Order explicitly provides that nothing in the order affects the functions of the OMB Director related to budgetary proposals. Additionally, there are restrictions on the release of the nature, amounts, and underlying budget materials prior to the budget being submitted to Congress. However, recognizing that this memorandum should not be construed to override any OMB or agency-specific policies on the budget process, employee representatives can still play a role in this process, when practicable.
During the budget development phase, before the President submits the Budget to Congress, management develops proposed funding levels and draft programmatic narratives to be included in the budget document. At this stage, management has the option to solicit input from employee representatives. If management chooses to solicit such input, it should be limited to high-level discussions of goals and strategies. Moreover, to the extent that anyone receives confidential predecisional, deliberative information during this budget-development period, such information remains subject to the long-standing OMB policies on preserving the confidentiality of the deliberations that lead to the President’s budget decisions.
During the period when Congress is considering the President’s Budget proposal, pre-decisional involvement can take the form of employee representatives providing input to management on possible ways of implementing the President’s proposals. Additionally, when the agency’s appropriations have been enacted into law, employee representatives may provide input to management on the use of budgetary resources to carry out its mission.
Of course, all of this "pre-decisional involvement" would fall outside the public purview, since 'pre-decisional involvement' is likely to be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, as noted by the Washington Examiner's Mark Tapscott.
The key word there is "pre-decisional." That puts agency documents concerning implementation of the EO under the FOIA's Exemption Five, the executive privilege exemption. Under Exemption Five, federal agencies are usually allowed by the federal courts to exempt from disclosure any document held to be part of the "pre-decisional" process by which agency managers arrived at a particular policy.
Go here for FOIAdvocates explanation of the nine statuatory exemptions under the FOIA, including number five.
Given the degree to which President Obama has turned over the federal government to union bosses, it may be just a natural evolution for unions to start writing the federal budget proposals as well.
Who knows? By the time the 2012 State of the Union address rolls around, the Obama administration may actually declare a surplus in the federal budget—all thanks to his partners at the AFL-CIO.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776