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Eye Opener: March 18, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Thursday! Gary Locke's confirmation hearing to serve as commerce secretary happens today and The Eye will be there with updates throughout the day. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is also scheduled to clear the nomination of David J. Hayes to be deputy Interior secretary. Vice President Biden hosts his second White House American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Implementation Conference, this time for local and county governments.

Today The Washington Post launches Head Count, an interactive way to track the 487 Senate-approved positions the Obama administration must fill. You can track nominees by agency, name or nomination status. Bookmark and familiarize yourself with it, because The Eye will refer to it often.

Today's Big Story: "Seven of about three dozen senior positions on President Obama's team are filled by African American women. Veterans in town see them as part of the steady evolution of power for black women, not only in the White House but also across the country -- in the business world, in academia, in policy circles," reports The Post's Krissah Thompson.

"Inside the young administration, the women said they have been slammed with work and left with little time to think about their place in history. But there are moments. When [EPA Administrator Lisa] Jackson, with bodyguard in tow, walks through the corridors of the EPA's vast complex in the Federal Triangle, she invariably is stopped by one of her employees, often an African American woman, who says, 'Thank you for being here.' She is reminded not only of the history Obama made but also of the history she is making. Black women make up about 192,000 of the more than 1.7 million members of the federal workforce, according to the Office of Management and Budget. 'It's an indication that I'm one of theirs,' Jackson said."

In other news, following up on Sunday's Post investigation, a House panel will soon hold a hearing to investigate health-and-safety allegations regarding the handling of asbestos at the Smithsonian Institution. House Administration Committee Chairman Robert A. Brady (D-Pa.) said the April hearing is meant to investigate "dangerous workplace conditions" at the Air and Space Museum, following reports of asbestos-containing walls there.

In other news...

OPM Authorizes Streamlined Hiring for Stimulus Efforts: The agency "will allow federal agencies to use excepted service appointments to hire staffers to carry out the provisions of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," reports Gov Exec's Alyssa Rosenberg. "The agencies can use excepted service authority to fill positions at any grade and at any facility in the country. The appointments are for one year. Agencies will be allowed to renew appointments in additional one-year increments without requesting waivers from OPM, but all appointments must end by Sept. 30, 2012."

CIO Back on the Job: It appears to be all clear for Vivek Kundra. TechPresident first reported he was back on the job following last week's arrest of two individuals running a kickback ring from inside the Washington, D.C. CTO's office, which Kundra used to run.

Veterans Groups Denounce Private Insurance Proposal: "An Obama administration proposal to bill veterans' private insurance companies for treatment of combat-related injuries has prompted veterans groups to condemn the idea as unethical and powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill to promise their opposition," reports The Post's Ann Scott Tyson.

GSA: Use Contracts for Stimulus Projects: Gov Exec's Elizabeth Newell reports that "Existing contracts offer the best option for getting stimulus money out the door quickly, a General Services Administration senior official said on Monday."

Agencies Divide Alternative-Energy Oversight Offshore: "The Interior Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will divide responsibility for regulating offshore alternative energy sources such as wind and wave power, ending an interagency turf battle," reports The Post's Juliet Eilperin.

Military Reports Of Sex Assaults Rose in 2008: The AP reports that "More people came forward to report sexual assaults in the military last year, but a significant percentage would not give crucial details needed for an investigation." CBS's Katie Couric provided some names and faces for these statistics last night.

Clinton Fan to State?: "Word is that Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), chair of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces and a staunch superdelegate for presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, is in line for a top post at the State Department, most likely undersecretary for arms control and nonproliferation," according to Al Kamen.

Pentagon Official Warns of Risk of Cyber Attacks: Walter Pincus reports that The United States is vulnerable to cyberattacks "across the spectrum" and more needs to be done to defend against the potential of online strikes, which could "potentially threaten not only our military networks, but also our critical national networks," according to Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton.

Nixon/Ford DOT Secretary Dies: The New York Times reports that "Claude S. Brinegar, the transportation secretary in the Nixon and Ford administrations who helped finance mass transit, restructure railroads in the Northeast and institute a national 55-mile-an-hour speed limit, died Friday in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 82."

Obama's Energy Goals Up the Work at Interior Agencies: "The Interior Department’s land agencies will see a big new workload in the coming months, reviewing new oil and gas lease applications and helping the government plan a new electric grid, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday," according to Federal Times reporter Gregg Carlstrom. Obama "has said he wants to increase domestic energy production, and the Bureau of Land Management has already issued seven new oil and gas leases in the nearly two months since he took office."

Google Gaining from Cookie Trail?: "Executives at online-advertising giant Google are helping President Obama and Capitol Hill legislators get their messages out to the public, but they're facing nascent opposition from privacy advocates and small competitors who say Google is inappropriately using its presence on government Web sites to track users' political activities online," reports NextGov's Neil Munro.

Post Office Delays Release of Stamps: The AP reports that USPS "said economic woes were forcing it to delay the release of several new stamps scheduled for this year. The Postal Service lost $2.8 billion last year and is facing even larger losses this year, despite a rate increase — to 44 cents for first-class mail — scheduled to take effect May 11."

GSA Awards Two More Contracts for Secure Internet Service: "AT&T and Qwest Government Services will offer the services on GSA's Networx contracting vehicle under the Office of Management and Budget's Trusted Internet Connections initiative, announced in November 2007. The goal of TIC is to reduce the number of external Internet connections in the federal government to fewer than 100 in 2009," reports NextGov's Gautham Nagesh.

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 18, 2009; 7:38 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: Locke Assures Senators on Census, DTV Switch


How can the Post Office lose $2.7 BILLION DOLLARS? Do they have a lot of dead wood workers? Is this an Agency where people are hired to keep them off the welfare rolls. When I wisit any Federal Office I see more workers than would be required if they were in private industry. This also applies to City and State workers.

Posted by: jrbreslin1 | March 18, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

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