Former Social Security chief happy to reclaim free speech rights from OMB


In a radio interview last week, former Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue voiced regret at leaving behind a workforce that he described as “very dedicated” and talented.

Astrue, who stepped down earlier this month, was happier at no longer having to run his every statement—even including proposed messages to SSA employees about sequestration—past minders at the Office of Management and Budget.

“I don’t miss having everything I say being cleared by a 28-year-old at OMB,” Astrue told WBUR, a National Public Radio member station in Boston. “And I’m not critical of OMB for that. Don’t get me wrong. I mean, I think the president needs to have some consistency of message. But it does get very frustrating. And particularly when you’re trying to say something important and it’s neutered down to a platitude. I always found it difficult to go out and just voice the platitudes.

“So, you know, getting my First Amendment rights back and being able to say what I think, you know, you don’t miss that until you’ve given it up. And I guess, you know, when you’ve given it up you appreciate it more when you get it back.”

Asked for comment on Astrue’s remarks, OMB spokeswoman Jessica Santillo emailed this response to FedLine: “OMB has always played an important role in coordinating activity and communications across the federal government to help ensure consistency and accuracy.”


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