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Eye Opener: March 25, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Wednesday! Here's your morning rundown of top stories across the federal government. Follow The Eye on Twitter and send your news tips, events listings, questions or comments to federaleye@washingtonpost.com.

Today's Big Story: Raising concerns The Eye mentioned earlier this week in The Washington Post, Energy Department IG Gregory Friedman says "that not only are stimulus funds vulnerable to waste and abuse, but the demands they incur on department resources threaten to swamp existing missions," according to Gov Exec's Katherine McIntire Peters. "The guidance from the White House Office of Management and Budget on administering the funds poses daunting challenges for even the most well-run federal program offices, Friedman wrote. For Energy and other agencies with histories of contract and financial management problems, the stimulus funds present potentially overwhelming difficulties."

In other news...

Treasury's Top Candidate to Run TARP Drops Out: "Frank Brosens, a hedge-fund manager and big Democratic donor, was considered the top contender to run the program, according to Deborah Solomon of The Wall Street Journal. "The lack of manpower at the Treasury comes at a precarious time, given the focus on fixing the financial crisis."

Former Pilot-Union Chief Set to Lead FAA: It's Randy Babbitt, according to Andy Pasztor and Christopher Conkey of the Wall Street Journal. He's "a prominent aviation consultant" who "led the Air Line Pilots Association during much of the 1990s, set up his own advisory firm and then merged it with the larger consulting firm Oliver Wyman."

Locke Confirmed as Commerce Secretary: The Senate approved his confirmation by voice vote. "That leaves only one outstanding cabinet appointment: Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas as Health and Human Services secretary," notes Sarah Wheaton of the New York Times.

Contractors Defend Their Programs as Pentagon Cuts Loom: "It's a sharp turnaround from recent years of plenty for Boeing and Northrop Grumman, which have joined other big defense companies in benefiting from increased defense spending and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Obama administration has promised new priorities in spending, spurring the companies to try to protect their major programs," reports The Post's Dana Hedgpeth. The lobbying comes as Obama confronted government procurement challenges head-on during Tuesday night's press conference.

Labor Agency Failing Workers, Report Says: In a report scheduled to be released today, the Government Accountability Office found that the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, had mishandled 9 of the 10 cases brought by a team of undercover agents posing as aggrieved workers, according to Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times. "In one case, the division failed to investigate a complaint that under-age children in Modesto, Calif., were working during school hours at a meatpacking plant with dangerous machinery."

'Global War On Terror' Given New Name: Al Kamen, with a Scott Wilson assist, scoops that "In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department's office of security review noted that 'this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' [GWOT.] Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.'" More: "The memo said the direction came from the Office of Management and Budget, the executive-branch agency that reviews the public testimony of administration officials before it is delivered." Or did it?

Handling of 'State Secrets' at Issue: "Civil liberties advocates are accusing the Obama administration of forsaking campaign rhetoric and adopting the same expansive arguments that his predecessor used to cloak some of the most sensitive intelligence-gathering programs of the Bush White House," reports The Post's Carrie Johnson.

GAO: Iraq Pullout A 'Massive,' Costly Effort: "The removal of about 140,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 will be a "massive and expensive effort" that is likely to increase rather than lower Iraq-related expenditures during the withdrawal and for several years after its completion," reports The Post's Karen DeYoung.

Human Rights Advocate Named State Department's Top Lawyer: Paul Richter of the LA Times reports that "Harold Hongju Koh, dean at the Yale Law School, has been one of the most vocal critics of the Bush administration's approach to the detention and trial of terrorism suspects." He called a 2002 memo justifying harsh interrogation methods a "stain on our national reputation."

Does the U.S. Need a 4th Military Service for Cyberattacks?: A recent article in a Defense newsletter suggests so, according to Bob Brewin of NextGov.com.

GSA Kicks off $3 Billion Competition for DHS Headquarters: The agency issued "two pre-solicitation notices Monday on the FedBizOpps Web site, announcing that formal requests for proposals will be forthcoming. The agency intends to hire one company to oversee development of the $3 billion project and another company to design and build the first stage of project," according to Tim Kauffman of Federal Times.

Legislation Requires More Training for Federal Managers: "The 2009 Federal Supervisor Training Act would require all agencies to provide new managers with training on developing performance expectations with their employees and evaluating them within their first year on the job," reports Gov Exec's Alyssa Rosenberg. "Current managers would have three years to take the training for the first time. After the initial guidance, all managers would have to receive refresher training every three years."

EPA to Scrutinize Permits for Mountaintop-Removal Mining: The agency "put hundreds of mountaintop mining operations on notice that they would be the focus of closer scrutiny yesterday, saying it needs to review their impact on local streams and wetlands before they can move forward," according to The Post's Juliet Eilperin.

Zoo Research Center Celebrates Leopard Cubs: Considered the most valuable in North America, two newborn clouded leopards are now in the care of the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va., according to The Post's Michael Ruane.

Today's Big Event: As the head of the top Postal union says USPS workers are the latest victims of the economic crisis, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia holds a hearing called: “Restoring the Financial Stability of the U.S. Postal Service: What Needs to be Done?” at 9:30 a.m. at the Rayburn Building Room 2154. The Postmaster General is expected to face tough questions on the size of his compensation package as USPS prepares to shut facilities and offer early retirement packages.

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 25, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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