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Eye Opener: Feb. 24, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! President Obama gives his first major address to a joint session of Congress tonight. The Federal Eye will weigh in following the address with a Look at the winners and losers mentioned during the big speech. Make sure to follow The Eye on Twitter throughout the day ... and everyday.

As the president takes to the dais tonight, he has named several more people to his administration, including several key deputies: Kathleen A. Merrigan, to be USDA's deputy secretary; Jon Cannon, to serve as deputy EPA administrator; New York Law School professor Seth Harris, to serve in the No. 2 job at Labor; John Morton will be nominated as the assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security; Ashton Carter is the pick to be DHS undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; April Boyd, chief of staff to Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), is the pick to be assistant secretary for legislative and intergovernmental affairs at the Commerce Department; and Denver lawyer Tom Strickland, already Interior Sec. Ken Salazar's chief of staff, was picked to also serve as assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

Will the third time be the charm for Obama at the Commerce Department? He's named former Washington State governor Gary Locke to lead the department.

"The choice of Locke for commerce secretary would continue a pair of themes that have emerged as Obama has assembled his Cabinet: diversity and reaching out to former rivals," The Post's Chris Cillizza reports today. "Locke was the first, and remains the only, Chinese American to be elected governor of a state, and he would become the third Asian American in Obama's Cabinet, joining Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and Energy Secretary Steven Chu."

In other news...

Marine One Upgrade Now Looks Less Likely: The new commander in chief called the costly Bush administration effort an example of military procurement "gone amok" and said he thinks the existing White House helicopter fleet "seems perfectly adequate." More: "Obama's disclosure that he had asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to conduct a "thorough review of the helicopter situation" amounted to a shot across the bow of large defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, the helicopter's manufacturer," reports The Post's R. Jeffrey Smith.

• Watchdogs Applaud Obama's Pick to Oversee Stimulus: They're hailing "the selection of Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney to head the new Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board, an independent panel that will provide oversight of the $787 billion stimulus package," reports Gov Exec's Robert Brodsky. "Devaney will report directly to Vice President Joe Biden, who will oversee the administration's economic recovery spending."

Progress Mixed on Naming Officials to Oversee Stimulus Spending: "Agencies have had mixed success at meeting one of the first deadlines related to the massive economic stimulus package: the goal of selecting by Feb. 13 a high-level official to oversee spending," Brodsky also reports. "A number of agencies contacted by Government Executive have placed someone in charge of economic recovery act activities, as requested by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag in a Feb. 9 memorandum. But at least several others missed the Feb. 13 deadline."

David M. Walker Profiled: The Post's Steve Vogel reports that the former GAO administrator "was outspoken in his criticism of the management of the Iraq war, repeatedly warned that the government's fiscal policies were courting disaster, and filed suit in an unsuccessful attempt to force Vice President Dick Cheney to disclose information about meetings he held with energy companies Yet he left his job as GAO comptroller general last year so he could speak more freely."

NASA Satellite Has Troubled Launch: "A NASA satellite designed to track carbon dioxide emissions worldwide failed to reach orbit early Tuesday in a mishap that could put in jeopardy its mission to better understand climate change," the AP reports. "The Taurus XL rocket carrying the Orbiting Carbon Observatory blasted off as planned at 1:55 a.m. PST from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's Central Coast."

U.S. May Set Greenhouse Gas Standard for Cars: "The Obama administration is considering establishing national rules for regulating greenhouse gas emissions for automobiles, according to White House officials, a move backed by both auto manufacturers and some environmentalists," reports The Post's Juliet Eilperin.

New Rule Impedes Cases Against Nursing Homes: "The Bush administration shut off a source of information last fall about abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities that people suing nursing homes consider crucial to their cases," reports The Post's Cindy Skrzycki. "The change, which affects the $144 billion nursing-home industry, was enacted with no public notice or attention."

Time Has Come to Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': So says The Post's Federal Diarist Joe Davidson who writes today about the story of an 18-year-old George Washington University freshman kicked out of the Naval ROTC because someone told commanders he was gay.

Navy Has Top-Secret Vessel It Wants to Put on Display: "One is called Sea Shadow. It's big, black and looks like a cross between a Stealth fighter and a Batmobile. It was made to escape detection on the open sea," reports The Wall Street Journal's Barry Newman. "The other is known as the Hughes (as in Howard Hughes) Mining Barge. It looks like a floating field house, with an arching roof and a door that is 76 feet wide and 72 feet high. Sea Shadow berths inside the barge, which keeps it safely hidden from spy satellites."

Today's Big Event: Before the big speech, President Obama gets his first foreign visitor, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, to discuss North Korea and the international financial crisis. More here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 24, 2009; 7:59 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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