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Eye Opener: Feb. 2, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Monday! Today The Washington Post relaunches its print Fed Page, providing newspaper readers with a one-stop spot for all of The Post's coverage on the federal government. While the coverage continues all day long at washingtonpost.com/fedpage, make sure to check out the new print complement everyday in the dead tree edition.

In order to fill those pages, we'll continue to keep tabs on the government and can always use your help. Send your news tips, hunches, questions, comments and event listings to federaleye@washingtonpost.com.

Today also marks the launch of our online-only "Federal Players" series, an occasional look at rank-and-file folks implementing ideas that make life easier for them, their colleagues and the American public. The series starts today with a profile of David Williams, a senior official at IRS who has helped the tax-collecting agency save billions of dollars.

In an effort to recruit and retain younger workers, Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) has introduced a bill that would provide four weeks of paid leave to federal employees after the birth or adoption of a child. As The Post's Steve Vogel reports, "An identical bill was passed by the House last year by a vote of 278 to 146, but was not brought to a vote in the Senate."

"While federal employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, many cannot afford to take unpaid leave and often use up sick leave or vacation, supporters of paid leave say."

In other news...

Daschle's Fate: The former Senate majority leader and nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services has sent a letter of apology to Senators that includes a seven-month timeline describing his tax issues. The two-page letter says that issues around his complicated tax filings arose "last fall" during the Obama transition team's vetting process. Members of the Senate Finance Committee meet today around 5 p.m. to discuss the matter.

Nomination Wave Slows: "Less than two weeks into his presidency, just 17 of the 31 nominees officially announced by the White House have been confirmed by the Senate -- a less noteworthy pace. By comparison, 19 of Bill Clinton's nominees were confirmed in his first 10 days in office," notes The Post's Al Kamen.

Managers Mobilize for Stimulus Spending: "Federal managers are scrambling to decide how they will spend the more than $20 billion earmarked for federal construction and information technology projects," reports the Federal Times' Gregg Carlstrom and Elise Castelli.
Some agencies already have detailed plans and say they can quickly start work on 'shovel ready' projects... ... Other agencies, though, will hit the ground crawling." The FT pair also report on what President Obama's new transparency rules may mean for the federal government: "Transparency advocates say the directive could mark the beginning of a new culture of openness in government. And while experts predict the presidential order will lead to a rush of new FOIA requests, they also say that in the long run, there may actually be fewer FOIA requests filed."

Margaret Spellings Staying Put: ... in Washington, D.C., that is, while her daughter finishes high school. The former education secretary tells USA Today she'll do some consulting work and public speaking and see to it that No Child Left Behind earns reauthorization in 2010.

Pentagon's 'Whole of Government' National Security Plans: "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has formally adopted the concept that national security planning and budgeting cannot be done by the Pentagon alone, according to the Defense Department's newly released Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review Report," reports The Post's Walter Pincus.

DHS' New Home: The Federal Times reports on how the Department of Homeland Security plans to renovate 52 historically-significant buildings on the St. Elizabeth's Hospital campus in Washington, D.C. and turn them into a state-of-the-art headquarters for the young cabinet department.

Short-Staffed USAID Tries to Keep Pace: Once a premier part of U.S. diplomacy, the agency has gradually shrunk since the 1970s, and relies on contractors for much of its work, reports USA Today. As Sec. of State Clinton said a few weeks ago: "It has half the staff it used to have. It's turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver."

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 2, 2009; 8:10 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Comments

With regard to the Feb 2 column, this statement is very offensive to me, and may be to a majority of civil servants: "In an effort to recruit and retain younger workers, Sen. James Webb...". I am not a "younger" worker, but feel my experience, knowledge and willingness to share both with a "younger" worker instead of carrying both out the door with me, not only has value but deserves a perk to make my remaining years more comfortable too.

Posted by: KarenS1 | February 2, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

As much as I will applaud Sen. Webb for introducing this bill, if he thinks that will attract younger people to being a Fed, he is sorely mistaken. It is going to take a lot more than that. Over the past 20 years, benefits of being a Fed have eroded, certainly compared to when I joined the Fed Service in the early 60s. The current retirement plan is mediocre, but at least it IS a retirement plan compared to the private sector. However, having a retirement plan based in part on the volatile stock market or bond market is not really a good thing, as some are now finding out.

Posted by: RedRat | February 2, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

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