Despite much speculation here and elsewhere about “burrowing,”  you’d be hard pressed to find a bolder treatment than the one offered by Steven L. Katz in GovExec.com today. Katz argues:

The time to take action against burrowers is now. The people approving and benefiting from burrowing in should be identified, enabling personnel actions reversed, and the offending parties led out of government. The Democrats coming into office should use their relationship with the outgoing Bush administration as well as their power on Capitol Hill to take action.

Katz is unambiguous about the Bush administration’s track record to date:

President Bush triggered a range of actions with his own unprecedented and improper removal of inspectors general — all appointed by President Clinton — at the Agriculture and Education departments and at NASA. Robert Cobb, Bush’s choice as NASA inspector general, was investigated in 2007 by the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency over allegations of improper conduct and a lack of independence; yet he remains in the job. GSA Administrator Lurita Doan, fired last spring, was the subject of well-documented conflicts of interest and procurement irregularities. Special Counsel Scott Bloch remained in office for most of his five-year term despite a flurry of actions that no one believed appropriate for someone in his position. Bloch was forced out of his job by the White House in October.

In the Senate, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has jurisdiction over the issue of burrowing in, and its chairman, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., now assumes a higher profile. House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is switching committees to lead the Energy and Commerce panel, and Tom Davis, R-Va., Government Reform’s ranking Republican, is retiring from Congress. As Lieberman prepares for a mass influx of political nominations for the executive branch, will he step forward with the renewed personal confidence and political trust of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to stop burrowers?

Katz’s piece reads as an appeal to OMB’s deputy director for management Clay Johnson III. Johnson’s stature as an honest broker is honestly impressive given his close relationship with the president and his role as perhaps the primary advocate on behalf of the administration’s sometimes controversial management agenda. Katz writes, “OMB’s Johnson is likely the only person close enough to the president who is personally committed to leading a respectable transition effort by the Bush administration and who has a big enough presence to step up against burrowers.” This strikes me as complelling. What will Johnson do?

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