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Eye Opener: Jan. 23, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! President Obama now has nine of his 15 cabinet secretaries confirmed, as the Senate last night confirmed Shaun Donovan to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development and installed former Illinois congressman Ray LaHood (R) at the Transportation Department. Lawmakers also confirmed U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro.

Two other cabinet secretaries, Ken Salazar and Hillary Rodham Clinton met with their new employees at the Interior and State departments.

The Government Accountability Office released its 2009 "high risk" areas list Thursday afternoon, adding three areas of concern to a list that now includes 30 different issues, reports The Post's Steve Vogel. Federal Diarist Joe Davidson notes that the report finds that "Federal contracting dollars are jumping like popcorn on the stove." Yours truly thinks the report serves as a kick in the entire government's pants -- a reminder everyone needs to start evaluating how they do their jobs. Concerns about the FAA's air traffic control systems were removed from the list, notes Gov Exec's Elizabeth Newell.

In other news...

Obama to Some DHS Officials: Stay Put: "Obama administration has asked nearly two dozen Bush administration officials in the Department of Homeland Security to stay in their jobs until successors can be named," reports our DHS correspondent Spencer S. Hsu. "The attempt at continuity is unusual in presidential transitions between parties, which typically lead to wholesale purging of politically appointed personnel. At the Justice Department, for example, almost no Bush holdovers remain beyond Deputy Attorney General Mark R. Filip, who is acting as attorney general pending confirmation of Obama nominee Eric H. Holder Jr., and Filip's two top aides. By contrast, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has retained the department's second-ranking official, Deputy Secretary Paul A. Schneider, and its top border security official, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham, as well as its operations director and the assistant secretaries responsible for policy and private sector coordination. The heads of the Coast Guard and Secret Service, who are not political appointees, and DHS Undersecretary for Management Elaine C. Duke, whose tenure is set by law, also remain."

Clinton's Deputies: Al "In the Loop" Kamen reports that the new secretary of state is "poised to tap a longtime friend and Democratic mega-donor as her undersecretary for public diplomacy. Judith A. McHale, one of the area's most prominent female executives, who stepped down in 2006 as president of Discovery Communications, may take a job that has been especially difficult given Washington's reputation abroad. Her résumé doesn't reflect an excess of diplomatic experience, but we're reminded that this is a job that involves selling a message."

The New TARP Watchdog: Shockingly, Neil M. Barofsky, special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, tells senators in a letter that it's practically impossible at the moment to tell where all the money has gone and is preparing to ask every bank and company that's received a dollar from the $700 billion financial rescue to detail how the funds were used. He "said he would ask the more than 300 firms to provide 'a narrative response outlining their use or expected use of TARP funds' and supporting documentation," reports The Post's Zachary A. Goldfarb.

Intel Nominee Would Scale Back Contractors: "The nominee to be director of national intelligence said one of his first duties if confirmed will be to transfer to federal employees any “inherently governmental” work being done by contractors," according to Federal Times reporter Stephen Losey. "Retired Adm. Dennis Blair said Jan. 22 said one such area that especially concerns him is interrogation work, much of which is being done by contractors."

Geithner's Confirmation Hearing: Talk about radically changing the subject! On day two of his Senate confirmation hearings, Timothy F. Geithner "signaled a more confrontational approach toward China, bluntly stating that the new administration thinks Beijing is 'manipulating' its currency and it will act 'aggressively' using 'all the diplomatic avenues' to change China's currency practices," reports The Post's Lori Montgomery and Anthony Faiola.

• The FedBlog (which keeps The Eye Looking behind his back) scoops that former OMB deputy director and Bush friend Clay Johnson was among those aboard the flight that took former president George W. Bush back to Texas. No word on if he's returning to the Lone Star State on a permanent basis, but "he can probably give a pretty good tour of the Texas State History Museum, which he helped found."

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 23, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administrations' enforcement programs needs an infusion of monetary and people resources to provide more workplace inspections and hold employers responsible to OSHA standards. A selection of an assistant secretary of labor for OSHA with occuaptional safety experience and training, whether in private industry or government, would be useful ensuring that resources are correctly identified and applied.
Improving the Agency's enforcement efforts and continuing its successful outreach and cooperative programs would ensure an Agency that is addressing urgent worker safety and health issues while teaching employers HOW to maintain safe and healthful working conditions.

Posted by: publicaffairs1 | January 25, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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