President Obama has nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. The OMB is something of a proving ground.
Past budget directors have gone on to become White House chiefs of staff and cabinet secretaries.
"It isn't such a big agency, but the subject matter covers everything that the government does," says Alice Rivlin, who led the OMB when Bill Clinton was president. "If you can run the OMB," she adds, "you can run anything."
And it seems to be true, given the resumes of recent OMB directors:
Jacob Lew: Director, OMB (twice) then White House Chief of Staff then Secretary of the Treasury
Rob Portman: Director, OMB then U.S. Senator
Joshua Bolten: Director, OMB then White House Chief of Staff
Mitch Daniels: Director, OMB then Governor of Indiana then president of Purdue University
Alice Rivlin: Director, OMB then Federal Reserve vice chair
Leon Panetta: Director, OMB then White House Chief of Staff then CIA Director then Secretary of Defense