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Eye Opener: Nov. 25, 2008

By Ed O'Keefe

Good morning! In celebration of the Department of Homeland Security's 6th anniversary, enjoy the above video. It was one this date in 2002 that President Bush signed legislation creating the cabinet-level department and named former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge as the first homeland security secretary.

So you've always wanted to serve as transportation secretary? Well, you "will walk into an agency that oversees an outdated air traffic control system; congested roads, rails and skies; crumbling highways and bridges; and a financing system teetering on collapse," reports The Post's Lindsey Layton. Good luck! For a look at who's in the running to head up transportation and other cabinet departments, check out "Building 44."

In other news...

Everything Old New Again at FEMA: Mr. In The Loop scoops that James Lee Witt, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, may be headed back to the ... agency ... to kick it into shape. "Witt's no stranger to this cleanup role, lest we forget what he inherited when he took the FEMA reins in 1993. FEMA was so badly ridiculed for botching relief efforts after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that outraged senators were threatening to zero out its budget. Then-Sen. Ernest F. 'Fritz' Hollings (D-S.C.) opined that the agency 'could screw up a two-car parade.'" Awesome quote! Kamen also reports that Obama's "likely plan is to break off the agency from the Department of Homeland Security, a move that by itself would help restore the pride that folks at FEMA felt when it was an independent agency."

Meet the Economic Advisers: We've heard plenty about Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, but who were those ladies standing with Obama on Monday? Christina Romer will chair the Council of Economic Advisers and the Wall Street Journal reports that "She is widely seen as one of the top economic historians in the world, a fitting expertise as the U.S. grapples with an economic downturn. Ms. Romer's husband, David, also is a prominent economist at Berkeley. Both Romers currently serve on the National Bureau of Economic Research's business-cycle dating committee." The Journal also notes that "The Council of Economic Advisers, on its own, has little political power. Its influence in any administration depends greatly on the persuasive powers and personality of its chair," and Romer isn't known for her strong personality. Meanwhile, Melody Barnes will head the White House Domestic Policy Council and The Post's Michael Fletcher reports that she is expected to adapt her passion for "changing the country" to a post that should grow in prominence in an Obama administration. "Obama has outlined an economic stimulus plan that he said will feed into his larger goals of expanding health-care coverage, increasing education opportunities and laying the foundation for a 'green' economy. Much of that work will fall into Barnes's White House portfolio."

Labor Dept. Misled Congress: "The Labor Department gave Congress inaccurate and unreliable numbers that understated the expense of contracting out its employees' work to private firms," reports The Post's Carol Leonnig. "The department's decisions in allowing contractors to compete for bureaucrats' work -- known as 'competitive sourcing' -- also demoralized workers, according to most of the 60 agency employees interviewed by the GAO. The GAO report states that "DOL's savings reports are not reliable: a sample of three reports contained inaccuracies, and others used projections when actual numbers were available, which sometimes resulted in overstated savings. Because of these and other weaknesses, DOL is hindered in its ability to determine if services are being provided more efficiently as a result of competitive sourcing."

Meet Skippy, a.k.a. John Podesta: "Anyone who has worked for [John] Podesta in the past decade knows Skippy, who first appeared during Podesta's eventful years as chief of staff in the Clinton White House. As scandal rocked the end of that presidency, staffers knew they had better come prepared to meetings. Otherwise, nurturing mentor John would be replaced by Skippy -- Podesta's quick-tempered, edgy and sarcastic alter ego," reports The Post's Lois Romano who notes that "So far, nearly 300,000 job seekers have filed résumés online for about 8,000 jobs." Podesta and others face the daunting task of sorting through those applications. "Podesta is, by most accounts, the right guy for the job. Skippy aside, his admirers say he doesn't rattle easily, is an honest broker and is intensely loyal. Podesta is also one of the rare Beltway animals who is both a wonk and a skilled politician and communicator."

Md. Lt. Gov. in Running at VA: "An Army Reserve colonel and Iraq war veteran could become the next secretary of Veterans’ Affairs," reports the Federal Times. Anthony Brown also happens to serve as Maryland's lieutenant governor. "Brown’s name...comes after speculation had centered on two other people to take over the VA, both disabled veterans. Former Sen. Max Cleland, a 67-year-old Vietnam veteran who lost both legs and an arm in that conflict, served as head of the then-Veterans Administration during the Carter administration and campaigned hard for Obama in the recent election campaign. Tammy Duckworth, a 41-year-old Iraq war veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, has served as the head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs since she lost a 2006 race for Congress."

Events: President-elect Obama holds another press conference today in Chicago at Noon ET. He will make some economic announcements.

Today in History: On this date in 1783, the British evacuated New York, their last military position in the United States. More here. Also, The Eye's grandmother, Jean O'Keefe, was born on this date in 1929. Happy Birthday Grandma!

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 25, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: Should National Service Be Part of Obama's Economic Plan?

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