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Eye Opener: March 12, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Thursday! The Obama administration has attracted all sorts of new people to government, including a few journalists. In the video clip above, see and hear former TIME Magazine reporter Jay Carney describe his new role as communications director for Vice President Joe Biden. Among other things, Carney defends his new boss' verbose ways. Read an extended transcript of Carney's conversation with The Post's "Sleuth" Mary Ann Akers here.

Speaking of new people, the administration has added at least three of them: Phil Reitinger has been appointed the Department of Homeland Security's undersecretary of the National Protections Program division, charged with protecting the federal government's computer networks from cyber attacks. The Post's Brian Krebs reports he's currently "chief trustworthy infrastructure strategist" for Microsoft.

The administration has also tapped Margaret A. Hamburg, a physician and former New York City health commissioner with an interest in bioterrorism, to run the struggling Food and Drug Administration. Joshua Sharfstein, Baltimore's health commissioner, will serve as Hamburg's chief deputy, according to The Post's Rob Stein and Lyndsey Layton.

"The pair, both outsiders, would take on an agency in crisis. Shaken by a series of alarming failures, the FDA desperately needs an infusion of strong leadership, money, technology and personnel -- and perhaps a major restructuring, say former officials, members of Congress, watchdog groups and various government reports." Their names surfaced on the same day a House subcommittee held a big hearing on the fate of food safety reform legislation.

In other news...

Charles Freeman Fallout: The Post's editorial board calls him a bad selection, but the Obama administration's former nominee to chair the National Intelligence Council decries in an e-mail "the barrage of libelous distortions of my record [that] would not cease upon my entry into office." The Post's Walter Pincus also notes that he bluntly blames "the Israel lobby" that aims to "control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views." David Broder weighs in, calling this episode "an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the lobbyists the president vowed to keep in their place, and their friends on Capitol Hill. The country has lost an able public servant in an area where President Obama has few personal credentials of his own -- the handling of national intelligence."

Stimulus Creates Major Challenges for Agency Money Managers: Gov Exec keeps its laser focus on the stim pack's fallout by reporting that "Besides the normal intensive machinations of developing an incoming administration's first budget, agency financial managers are working closely with the Office of Management and Budget to craft spending plans for the economic stimulus package."

Obama’s Court Nominees Focus of Speculation: Not quite part of the federal bureaucracy, but they'll have an impact and the NYT reports "White House lawyers have compiled lists of likely candidates for vacancies on several of the 12 regional appeals courts, notably those based in Richmond, Va., and New York." Reporter Neil A. Lewis notes that "At least so far, the candidates being considered by the Obama White House for early nomination do not appear to have especially ideological profiles."

DoD, VA Feel Pressure of Health IT Sharing: Electronic medical records sharing between the two departments is scheduled to go live in 2010 in Chicago. Both agencies are busily working together and separately to make this happen, reports Federal News Radio's Jason Miller.

Drug Czar Means Focus on Treatment, Not Jail: The choice of R. Gil Kerlikowske to serve as drug czar and the emphasis on alternative drug courts signals a sharp departure from Bush administration policies, gravitating away from cutting the supply of illicit drugs from foreign countries and toward curbing drug use in communities across the United States, report The Post's Carrie Johnson and Amy Goldstein.

Reporting Rules for Chemical Releases Toughened: "Companies will have to provide more detailed disclosure of toxic chemicals they release into the environment under a little-noticed provision in the massive spending bill President Obama signed into law yesterday," reports The Post's Juliet Eilperin.

'Clean Coal' Set Back by Bush by 10 Years?: Bush's "decision to halt production of an experimental power plant that would capture and store carbon dioxide emissions underground may have set back 'clean coal' technology in the United States by as much as a decade, according to The Post's Kimberly Kindy.

Obama Names Ambassadors: Formally announces he'll nominate Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry to serve as U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, and veteran State Department diplomat Christopher Hill to be ambassador in Baghdad. "The picks for the two most prominent jobs announced Wednesday...had been known well in advance," the AP reports.

Obama, Geithner Get Low Grades From Economists:
Kind of like calling the kettle black? The Wall Street Journal reports "A majority of the 49 economists polled said they were dissatisfied with the administration's economic policies."

Stimulus May Get a Timely Boost From U.S. Census Hiring: Bloomberg News gets around to reporting what The Eye and others have already noted: Census jobs "though temporary, may ease some of the pain in a labor market where almost 3 million have been put out of work in the last five months. The Census Bureau will spend about half its $14 billion budget for the 2010 headcount on personnel, including jobs that pay $10 to $25 an hour and last several weeks to several months."

Interesting: "More than one out of every five dollars of the $126 million Massachusetts is receiving in earmarks from a $410 billion federal spending package is going to help preserve the legacy of the Kennedys," the AP's Steve LeBlanc reports. "The bill includes $5.8 million for the planning and design of a building to house a new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate. The funding may also help support an endowment for the institute."

Today's Big Event: Vice President Biden get down to the nitty-gritty of governance today, holding a White House conference on Recovery Act implementation that will bring state officials together with Cabinet secretaries and administration officials. More events here. Send your events listings to

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 12, 2009; 6:20 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: Treasury Still Hiring for TARP

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