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Eye Opener: Nov. 17, 2008

By Ed O'Keefe

Good Morning! If "Eye of the Tiger" doesn't get your blood flowing on a cold Monday morning, then what will? Send your news tips, event postings and Eye-related humor and pop culture to federaleye@washingtonpost.com.

Presidential Pen Pal: Barack Obama wrote a series of letters to workers that offer detailed descriptions of how he intends to add muscle to specific government programs, give new power to bureaucrats and roll back some Bush administration policies, reports The Post's Carol D. Leonnig. The president-elect specifically promised expansions at HUD, the Social Security Administration, EPA, TSA, Labor and Defense departments. Some worry that Obama may have overpromised, with program changes and worker benefits that would be impossible to achieve. "That strikes me as smart politics," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "We'll soon find out if he can deliver when he has to deliver his first budget." Indeed.

FAA Wants Obama's Help: Unions for the folks responsible for safely getting aircraft on and off the ground say they will offer the Obama administration a "to-do list" involving presidential executive orders on assorted labor policy questions, reports The Post's Sholnn Freeman. One would reinstate a Clinton-era policy that required managers at federal agencies to work cooperatively with labor unions. The need, the leaders say, arises partly from labor's struggles with the Bush administration at agencies like the FAA. Under federal law, the FAA is only agency in the federal government that negotiates with its union over pay and benefits.

Deliberate Haste at DHS: "As Democrats for the first time take over the five-year-old Department of Homeland Security, the watchword for Obama transition aides is caution," reports The Post's Spencer S. Hsu. Spencer adds that "Not since the Eisenhower Administration took over the Department of Defense or the Reagan Administration assumed leadership of the Department of Energy have the stewards of our nation's security . . . been wholly or mostly replaced for the first time," analysts David Heyman and James Jay Carafano wrote in a September report, 'Homeland Security 3.0' that noted the turmoil, distraction and delay caused by repeated reorganizations since the department's creation in 2003.

Good Job (So Far): Leaders of good government groups are praising President-elect Obama's transition, and ramping up their own operations to provide resources for political appointees and to press the administration to adopt a range of management reforms, reports GovExec.com's Alyssa Rosenberg.

No More Saturday Mail?: The Federal Times says the U.S. Postal Service "asked Congress last week to allow it to dip into a trust fund to pay for its retirees’ health care. In addition, the agency plans to cut 100 million work hours this fiscal year." More: " The Postal Service’s financial troubles will likely mean big changes in the next few years. One possibility: the end of Saturday delivery." ... "The Postal Service has studied ending Saturday delivery before; a 1980 report found it would save about $1 billion annually. That’s about $2.5 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars, and experts say that figure might still be low, because of today’s higher fuel costs and the larger delivery network."

Meet the Dingells: The New York Times reports on the tough times for Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) -- soon to be the longest serving member of the House -- and his wife, Deborah Insley Dingell, a senior executive at General Motors. "John is fighting to protect his job from an ambitious younger colleague. Debbie is battling to save her company from bankruptcy. John is recovering from major knee surgery. Debbie’s mother has been seriously ill." The article discusses Dingell's fight with "anything-but-mellow" Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) for the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, calling the battle a "King Kong vs. Godzilla" matchup.

Events: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announces its energy transition plans today at 1:30 p.m. ET at the Chamber's Hall of Flags. The group will issue a "roadmap" with more than 80 issues. Speakers at the event: Tom Donohue, Chamber president and CEO; Retired Gen. James L. Jones, the president and CEO of the Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy; Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.); Dan Yergin, co-founder and chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call.

Today in History: In 1800, Congress held its first session in the partially completed U.S. Capitol building and President Nixon mutters his famous phrase, "I am not a crook." More here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 17, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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