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Eye Opener: Dec. 3, 2008

By Ed O'Keefe

Good morning!

The Federal Eye is now on Twitter! Follow The Eye on Twitter here.

With less than 50 days to go, there's increased last-minute activity by the Bush administration -- and some folks are not happy.

For example:

Eye Opener

Union Privileges Revoked: "Government unions yesterday criticized a White House executive order that bars certain workers at five federal departments from joining a union because they are engaged in intelligence gathering, investigations and other national security work," reports The Post's Spencer S. Hsu. "Offices covered by the order employ about 8,600 people within the Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation and Treasury departments. About 900 of them are Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives workers who have chosen to participate in collective bargaining and will lose their negotiated work rules, a White House spokesman said. Such rules typically cover working hours, scheduling and promotion procedures, for example." More: "Peter Winch, national organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees, called the move 'an abuse of discretion in the last few days' of Bush's tenure, noting that ATF was reorganized and moved from Treasury to the Justice Department in 2003. 'From then to now, from last week to today, what has changed from the national security perspective? These workers' rights are not trivial,' Winch said."

The Exodus Continues: Serving double duty, Spencer S. Hsu also notes that "Jonathan "Jock" Scharfen, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services since April, stepped down yesterday to become vice president of international operations for Northrop Grumman's technology services sector, continuing the Bush administration transition exodus. Scharfen announced the move to employees last Wednesday. His acting deputy, Michael Aytes, will oversee day-to-day agency operations, spokesman Bill Wright said."

Watch Out for the Yellow Badges!: "Wearing yellow badges and traveling in groups of 10 or more, agency review teams for President-elect Barack Obama have swarmed into dozens of government offices, from the Pentagon to the National Council on Disability," report The Post's Shailagh Murray and Carol D. Leonnig. "Their job is to minimize the natural tension between incoming and outgoing administrations, but their work also is creating anxiety among some Bush administration officials as the teams rigorously examine programs and policies."

Coal Mining Debris: "The White House on Tuesday approved a final rule that will make it easier for coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys," reports The New York Times. "The rule is one of the most contentious of all the regulations emerging from the White House in President Bush’s last weeks in office." More: "Stephen L. Johnson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, concurred in the rule, first proposed nearly five years ago by the Interior Department, which regulates coal mining. In a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, dated Tuesday, Mr. Johnson said the rule had been revised to protect fish, wildlife and streams. Mining activities must comply with water quality standards established by the federal government and the states, Mr. Johnson said. But a coalition of environmental groups said the rule would accelerate 'the destruction of mountains, forests and streams throughout Appalachia.'"

In other news...

Mid-Sized Contractors Feeling Squeezed: "Mid-size contractors who feel squeezed out of the federal procurement arena by small businesses and industry giants lack the data and organization to fix the problem, government and congressional observers said on Tuesday," reports GovExec.com. "This midtier dilemma occurs when a company grows beyond its small business designation and is thrown into the contracting competition pot with gargantuan firms operating in a wide range of areas." More: "There are approximately 17,000 contractors on GSA's multiple award schedule, who take in more than $35 billion in sales annually. While 80 percent of the contractors on schedule are small businesses, the remaining 20 percent account for 65 percent of sales, totaling almost $23 billion."

Cool Link: The Post's Book Critic Michael Dirda has asked his fans to suggest names to head up the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities. Submit your picks!

Events: The Department of Homeland Security hosts its Industry Day at the Ronald Reagan Building from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Various panel discussions on procurement, emergency preparedness and immigration programs will be supplemented by contractor demonstrations. The Eye hopes to stop by to check it out... check back later today for updates!

This Day in History: Andrew Jackson was elected the seventh U.S. president on this date in 1828. More here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 3, 2008; 7:03 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: Census Tops Richardson's Commerce To-Do List

Comments

Thanks for posting the news about the latest coal deregulation. President Obama ran on a platform to end mountain top removal coal mining and http://www.ilovemountains.org/obama/ allows you to send a message to the President elect to remind him of his promise.

Posted by: kermie_18 | December 3, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

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