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Eye Opener: March 16, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe


Eye Opener

Happy Monday! Spend some time today watching last night's "60 Minutes" interview (above) with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the first televised conversation with a Fed chairman in more than 20 years. If anything, watch for a look at the interior shots of the Fed's headquarters. "The last time a sitting chairman of the secretive central bank did a television interview was Alan Greenspan's 1987 appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," reports The Post's Neil Irwin.

Today President Obama helps mark the 20th anniversary of the Department of Veterans Affairs ascension to the cabinet room. Back on March 15, 1989, President Bush said that "There is only one place for the veterans of America, in the Cabinet Room, at the table with the President of the United States of America." The president and Secretary Eric Shinseki address staffers around 2 p.m. Obama will focus his remarks on his gratitude for veterans and his support for the VA's work to serve our veterans and to transform itself into a 21st century agency, according to an administration official.

Today's Talker: The National Park Service will soon install signage on the National Mall, to help tourists better identify landmarks including the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. NPS will spend $2.2 million on the project, according to The Post's Michael Ruane. "Design research is underway, with a view to replacing the mishmash of signs on the Mall with a more uniform and user-friendly system that will probably use a series of color-coded pylons."

Meanwhile, there are "signs" that the Office of Personnel Management will soon face more pressure to offer federal employees domestic partner benefits.

"Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) plan to reintroduce the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, perhaps as early as this month, and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) will offer a similar proposal in the House. The bills would allow gay and lesbian federal employees to enroll their partners in health insurance and other benefits programs," reports Government Executive's Alyssa Rosenberg.

"The issue also has gained urgency because federal judges in California recently ordered the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, which handles benefits applications for judicial branch employees, to grant the same-sex spouses of two court workers access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program."

In other news...

OPM: Hire Fast for Stimulus: " Agencies needing to staff up quickly to carry out stimulus projects will be able to hire temporary employees without going through the normal competitive process," reports Federal Times' Stephen Losey. "The Office of Personnel Management on March 12 authorized agencies to use 'excepted service' appointments to fill temporary stimulus jobs if they are tied directly to the stimulus package. Excepted service jobs are not subject to competition and do not have to be announced publicly if agencies decide they cannot be reasonably filled through an open competitive examination."

U.S. Challenged On Sealing of Detainee Files: "The Justice Department has filed "unclassified" records in federal court outlining the government's cases against more than 100 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, but the records are not being made public," reports The Post's Del Quentin Wilber. "This has triggered a legal skirmish with detainees' attorneys, who say the excessive secrecy greatly complicates their work, especially in light of looming hearings."

Space Shuttle Discovery Blasts Off: Seven astronauts are on their way to the International Space Station, following more than one month of delays, reports the AP.

The Man in the Middle: The Post's Robert Barnes reports on Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's continuing win streak.

Michael Brown's Facebook Status: The former FEMA director updated it while visiting New Orleans, reports The Post's Al Kamen.

Partisan Disagreements on House Oversight Panel: "The initial chorus of bipartisan harmony from the House's principal oversight panel hit a discordant note Thursday, when its lead Republican accused Democrats of being tone deaf to one alleged case of perjury while aggressively pursuing another," reports Congress Daily's/Gov Exec's Carrie Dann. "The blast was sounded by House Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) after Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) announced a new investigation of allegations that Merrill Lynch executives lied to the committee last year."

Today's Big Event: The International Association of Firefighters -- which represents roughly 3,300 federal workers -- begins its annual legislative conference today and will hear from Vice President Joe Biden, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. More information here. Send your events listings to federaleye@washingtonpost.com.

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 16, 2009; 7:34 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: FY-Eye: Smithsonian and Asbestos

Comments

$2.2 million for signs and "design research"?

I am from Pittsburgh. We have a wonderful sign program if you will, that tells people where the sites are and are in nice bright colors-different from standard directional signs.

$2.2 million? . I must be getting old because I dont ever recall signs costing that much. DOnt we have prisoners to do this work instead of watching TV?

Posted by: davethewave1 | March 16, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

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