"The Budget Overseer"

By: Jason Peña, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

The President of the United States is surrounded by people who carry out missions to maintain order and progress. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is a specific agency within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) that helps the President implement their vision. The OMB performs this function by developing and executing the President's budget and through providing guidance to agencies, reviewing and clearing testimony, regulations, and Presidential Executive Orders. Working for the OMB requires flexibility, an extremely high level of accuracy, and good negotiation skills. The career employees of the OMB are subject matter experts and provide support across many departments and administrations. Overall, the OMB serves three functions: 1) Budget, 2) Management, and 3) Regulation. OMB is the largest office within the EOP, which also includes the National Security Council, the Domestic Policy Council, and the Council of Economic Advisors among other White House staff offices.

Joe Montoni, Senior Program Examiner Office of Management and Budget; Agriculture branch

Joe Montoni, a Senior Program Examiner within the Agricultural Branch of the OMB, met with our group of ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate students in May in Washington, DC. Joe spoke about his experiences at the OMB and how he’d reviewed budget and policy issues for many different USDA programs, such as those related to natural resource conservation on private land and local and regional agricultural marketing programs, including programs that oversee fair competition in the livestock industry.

Joe started working at the OMB in 1999 and took a position within the Agriculture Branch in 2002. As an expert on conservation policy, he has led on efforts to improve water quality, safeguard ranching while protecting wildlife habitat in Western States, and increase engagement with locally-led, voluntary conservation through the America the Beautiful initiative. Joe also assists in budget execution matters and provides oversight on a variety of human capital and policy issues. Given that our focus at the Center for Sustainable Food Systems is on food, we asked him to elaborate on OMB’s role in developing the President’s budget request to ensure food security for our citizens. Joe provided an overview of the decision-making process that informs policies in the budget and spoke specifically about proposals to protect America's food supply included in the President's budget request for FY 2023. Joe also explained how the budget included targeted funding to support smaller producers and increase production capacity in order to create a more diverse food supply chain. In addition to the President’s budget, Joe explained how agriculture policy is informed by the farm bill, including recent policy discussions related to climate-smart agricultural production. During a question and answer session, we asked Joe to comment on OMB’s role in oversight of government spending and the growing national debt. Joe mentioned how OMB interacts with agencies to oversee implementation of programs funded by Congress and enforces spending limitations enacted in law.

Key moment led to a career of service

Joe was drawn to a career in government service by a desire to have a positive impact on the lives of Americans and Joe described the sense of pride and honor that he felt working for the White House.  He also shared the emotional impact that he felt having worked at OMB on September 11, 2001.  This experience – and his sense of being part of the greater good during one of our nation's hardest times – crystallized and confirmed Joe's commitment to public service.

This blog is part of a series from the May 2022 Washington D.C. Immersive component of the Swette Center graduate programs. Students met with federal food and agriculture focused officials at USDA, the White House, and Congress alongside many other important influencers of policy in industry and non-profits.