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Eye Opener: Jan. 30, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! We start with two noteworthy links from government Web sites First, check out the Justice Department's National Motor Vehicle Title Information System Web site that launched yesterday. Once all 50 states are participating by next year, it will allow auto consumers to assure their purchase is not a "lemon." Then make sure to visit, which has compiled all of the government's food safety information in one spot.

It's nice to learn that a cabinet secretary will practice what he preaches (or something like that): Arne Duncan will enroll his children 7-year-old daughter in Arlington, Va. public schools, telling The Post's Maria Glod that he appreciates the quality of the schools and the diversity of the student body. Duncan and his wife also have a 4-year-old son.

Speaking of the cabinet, another Republican may soon join it. New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg is in the mix for commerce secretary, according to Roll Call and The New York Times.

"If Mr. Gregg accepted the post, he would probably be replaced by a Democrat," the Times reports.

In other news...

Federal Retirement Tidal Wave Slowing?: Mike Causey, the dean of federal government reporters, shares comments from his readers regarding the impending federal brain drain. A sampling: "Besides the economy as a reason to hang on, one factor we have seen here, is divorce. Once a sizable portion of your retirement is not going to be coming your way, it changes your plans, to perhaps showing up as long as you can."

Obama's Got Good Lawyers: The Post's Dan Eggen reports that "Several dozen prominent lawyers...will help formulate and interpret legal policy in the new administration, signaling a dramatic departure from the legal approach and policies of Bush and his aides. The list includes heavy-hitters educated at some of the nation's most prestigious law schools, and many who were sharply critical of Bush administration policies on detention, prisoner treatment, surveillance and other issues."

Redecorating at Foggy Bottom: Gone are the photos of former president George W. Bush from the halls of the State Department. No word yet on what might replace them, according to Al Kamen and Philip Rucker.

Army Suicides: Specifically at the U.S. Military Academy, where two cadets have committed suicide in the past two weeks. As for the entire Army, "The 2008 suicide rate of 20.2 per 100,000 marked a historic high for the Army, and for the first time since the Vietnam War era it surpassed the overall U.S. rate for people of similar ages and backgrounds."

Imprisoned Spy and Son Face Conspiracy Charges: It has not been a banner week for current or former CIA agents. Now there's word that former CIA official Harold J. Nicholson enlisted his youngest son to travel the world and collect cash from Russian agents as a "pension" for his past services, federal officials said yesterday.

DEA Out of Bolivia: The last of the agency's staff left the country after President Evo Morales ordered them out in November. This as cocoa production grows in the small South American country.

VA Faces Counselor Shortages: The department "needs to use more sophisticated workforce planning tools to ensure its Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program has staff with the skills to address the increasingly complicated needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan," reports Government Executive.

Obama's Expensive Ride: "Costs on the troubled VH-71 presidential helicopter program have increased by more than 50 percent over the last three years -- a violation of the Nunn-McCurdy law that triggers a departmental review," according to Gov Exec. "Lockheed Martin Corp. won a hard-fought competition for the $6.1 billion program in January 2005. Since then, the effort as been plagued by cost increases, schedule delays and disagreements involving the company, the Navy and the White House Military Office."

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 30, 2009; 7:59 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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