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Eye Opener: March 10, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! Per our friends at GovLoop, today's the final day for all federal employees to share their ideas on making government more open, transparent, and participant. All government employees with .gov, .mil, or .fed.us e-mail addresses can join the conversation here.

Now that the president has lifted the ban on federal funding for stem cell research, "many thought Obama would limit federally funded scientists to working with cell lines derived from embryos destined to be discarded at infertility clinics. Instead, he left that key issue open," reports The Post's Rob Stein. "The task of deciding what kinds of studies will be supported now falls to the National Institutes of Health, which finds itself confronting far more extensive questions than its officials were contemplating. It has 120 days to do the job.

"In anticipation of Obama's decision, the NIH had begun drafting guidelines assuming that funding would be limited to lines from embryos discarded after in vitro fertilization. That is what officials had proposed during President Bill Clinton's administration and what would be accomplished under legislation Congress passed twice and will consider again. But proponents of the research had hoped that Obama's order would be free of caveats, fulfilling his promise to leave such decisions to scientists. Obama cast his decision that way, coupling it with an order aimed at removing politics from scientific decisions across the government."

Good luck with that tough decision!

There's another guy with a new tough government job: Earl E. Devaney.

"In 38 years of government service, Mr. Devaney, a hulking former college football lineman and Secret Service man, has been unnerving would-be miscreants," reports today's New York Times. "But now the Big Man, as Mr. Devaney’s colleagues call him, is taking on an incomparably bigger job, tracking a sum 50 times the agency’s annual budget as chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board — or as the irresistible acronym has it, RAT Board."

In other news...

Education Push to Include Merit Pay: The Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler reports that "President Barack Obama is laying out his 'cradle to career' plan for education" today and "The merit pay proposal would significantly expand a federal program that increases pay for high-performing teachers to an additional 150 school districts" administration officials said.

A Struggle Over U.S. Cybersecurity: Brian Krebs, author of the fantastic and useful Security Fix blog, speaks with Rod A. Beckstrom, who resigned Friday as director of the National Cyber Security Center, "an organization created last March to help coordinate such security efforts across the intelligence community." But recently, Beckstrom said, efforts have been underway to fold his group into a facility at the National Security Agency.

Small Businesses Set Sights on U.S. Gov't: "The $787 billion government stimulus promises to create a bevy of federal, state and local government projects that would give small businesses an opportunity to win contracts and cash in on a slice of the stimulus dollars," reports The Wall Street Journal's Kelly K. Spors.

New OPM Chief’s Challenge: It will be "speeding up the hiring process," according to Federal Times' Tim Kauffman. "Linda Springer, who stepped down last summer as director of the Office of Personnel Management, said [Obama's OPM nominee John] Berry will be challenged to help agencies respond to additional work requirements stemming from the 2009 American Recovery and Investment Act."

OPM Offers Training to Agencies Involved in Stimulus: The agency is reaching out to federal agencies to help them staff up quickly and use human capital strategies to implement the requirements of the massive stimulus package, reports Government Executive's Brittany R. Ballenstedt.

OMB: 2010 to Be Rebuilding Year: " Many of the big funding boosts slated for agencies in President Barack Obama’s proposed 2010 budget will be used to hire new employees and finish long-delayed technology projects," reports Federal Times' Gregg Carlstrom. "But after years of neglect, it’s not clear how effectively some agencies will be able to spend that money — or how they’ll adjust to 2011, when budgets are expected to remain almost flat and even dip for some agencies."

Detox for Troubled Assets: FDIC chairwoman Sheila C. Bair continues her media tour by speaking with Post business reporters: "Bair said yesterday that the effort might require more money than the $700 billion Congress has approved to aid the financial industry, but she added that taxpayers would probably reap an eventual profit on the asset purchases."

Homeland Security's Next Mission: Self-Improvement: "At a congressional hearing last week, you could easily get the impression the department is like a big pot of stew that just doesn't taste right," reports The Post's Joe Davidson. "The big issue for many employees with the greatest contact with the public -- those who staff airport security gates -- is the right to bargain collectively."

Kirk on Course for Trade Post: Despite his tax issues, the former Dallas mayor tells senators that "his main objective as the nation's top trade official would be enforcing existing laws and insisting that U.S. trade partners play by the rules," the AP reports.

GOP Senators Question Intelligence Pick's Ties: "All seven Republican members of the Senate intelligence committee yesterday joined a small chorus of voices on Capitol Hill criticizing the choice of a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia for a senior intelligence position, concerned about his views on Israel and his past relationships with Saudi and Chinese interests," reports The Post's Walter Pincus. "Charles W. Freeman Jr. was picked by Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair to lead the National Intelligence Council."

Finding a Way to Review Surveillance Tape in Bulk: Pincus also reports that "An agency under the director of national intelligence is seeking to develop an automated computer program that could process millions of feet of videotape, such as surveillance-camera data from countries other than the United States, according to a report released last week."

High-Level Officials Hold Meeting on Guantanamo: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. held the first Cabinet-level meeting of President Obama's Guantanamo Bay task force. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, CIA Director Leon Panetta and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III were among the participants," the AP reports. "The group discussed standards for reviewing cases, which detainee decisions will get priority and what has been done so far."

Romer: Too Soon for More Stimulus: One of the White House's top economic advisers told an audience at the Brookings Institution that "We have to let the medicine work for a while to see if it does the trick," reports The Post's Steve Vogel.

Auto Task Force Takes Detroit Road Trip: Some of the folks that do work at Treasury "gave Detroit a close-up inspection yesterday as members consider whether to extend additional loans to the struggling automakers," reports The Post's Kendra Marr. "It was panel's first trip to Motor City since Treasury Department advisers Steven Rattner and Ron Bloom began their fact-finding meetings two weeks ago."

Today's Big Event: The New America Foundation hosts a lunchtime discussion, "Halliburton's Army: The Future of Military Contracting" from 12:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. at its L St. NW offices. More information here. Send your events listings to federaleye@washingtonpost.com and check out other upcoming events here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 10, 2009; 7:25 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: FY-Eye: 'Great Work in Our Own Words'

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