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Eye Opener: March 31, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener
Happy Tuesday! The Post's Lois Romano continues her must-watch, revealing conversations with Obama administration officials today, chatting with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who tells her he has played pickup basketball with President Obama since they both arrived from Chicago. Make sure to watch Lois' previous Voices of Power interviews.

Today's Big Story: "The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, responsible for ensuring that the nation's workers are treated fairly, has itself willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act on a nationwide basis with its own employees," reports The Post's Steve Vogel. "The agency's practice of offering compensatory time off to its employees rather than overtime pay amounted to 'forced volunteering' and was a knowing violation of the law, according to the ruling. ... The union representing EEOC employees said the decision lends credence to its frequent complaint that the agency is undermanned and its staff is overworked."

Gary Locke's Launch: The new commerce secretary started fast, making his first appearance at a U.S. Census event and thus gets labeled the census' "champion" by the New York Times editorial board and tells the Wall Street Journal "that he will push for 'fair trade' and said countries seeking open trade with the U.S. should abide by 'minimum standards' for environmental and safety regulations." All of this while Judd Gregg -- the man who almost got the Commerce job -- emerges as a chief Obama administration critic.

In other news...

Obama Administration Ditches 'War on Terror': It's over. Ziltch. Gone. For real. Why? Because Hillary Rodham Clinton says so, reports the LA Times' Paul Richter.

Robert Gates in The News: The defense secretary asks for more funding at the State Department, according to Federal Times, while the New York Times profiles the secretary, describing him as a "canny, deceptively bland Washington master of adaptation." Reporter Elisabeth Bumiller writes that "White House officials say Mr. Gates has an authority and rapport with Mr. Obama that exceeds his low wattage in public."

Chuck Fox Profiled: The Post's Ashley Halsey III profiles the EPA's new senior adviser on the Chesapeake Bay: "He inherits a 25-year mission that has stumbled, faltered and ultimately failed to clean up the increasingly cloudy waters despite almost $6 billion in spending."

Getting Agencies on Board With Cloud Computing: "Consumers save their e-mail and documents on Google's data centers, put their photos on Flickr and store their social lives on Facebook. Now a host of companies including Amazon and Microsoft wants government agencies to similarly house data on their servers as a way to cut costs and boost efficiency," reports The Post's tech reporter Kim Hart. "But federal officials say it's one thing to file away e-mailed jokes from friends, and another to store government data on public servers that could be vulnerable to security breaches."

BRAC Costs Rising: The Post's Christian Davenport reports that "The federally ordered movement of Defense Department jobs around the Washington area is proving more costly than originally thought, and there is concern that road improvements to accommodate the additional traffic will not be made in time, worsening gridlock in a region that can hardly afford it."

Army Makes 'Civil Control' a Priority: The Post's Walter Pincus reports on details of a new U.S. Army field manual titled "Tactics in Counterinsurgency."

Arms Development Costs Soar: "The costs to research and develop fighter jets and other programs have been rising steadily. Last year, they were 42 percent over initial estimates. That compares with 27 percent in 2000, when the cost of the portfolio of programs was half of what it is today," according to The Post's Ellen Nakashima and Dana Hedgpeth.

FAA Nominee Draws Praise: "Employee and industry groups have expressed support for Randy Babbitt," reports Government Executive's Alyssa Rosenberg. "Babbitt began his career as a pilot for Eastern Airlines and later became chief executive officer of ALPA, before leaving to create his own consulting company."

Recession Puts Major Strain On Social Security Trust Fund: The Post's federal budget reporter Lori Montgomery writes that "With unemployment rising, the payroll tax revenue that finances Social Security benefits for nearly 51 million retirees and other recipients is falling, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office."

Ray Mabus Had an Awesome Beard: The Navy secretary-designate's nomination is safe despite his messy divorce, and Gov Exec's Alyssa Rosenberg discovers he once wore a rather scruffy beard.

Gil Kerlikowske's Replacement: Seattle is buzzing over who will replace its police chief, who's moving to Washington to serve as drug czar.

FDA: Avoid Pistachios: The Eye's pistachio-loving dad may frown today at the news. The government agency says a central California-based company will voluntarily recall some of the roasted nuts it has been shipping since last fall due to salmonella concerns.

500+ Traveling With Obama: Meant to post this yesterday, but the Guardian Newspaper has a great sketch of the federal employees traveling with the president to Europe.

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 31, 2009; 7:45 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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"responsible for ensuring that the nation's workers are treated fairly, has itself willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act on a nationwide basis with its own employees. "The agency's practice of offering compensatory time off to its employees rather than overtime pay amounted to 'forced volunteering' and was a knowing violation of the law, according to the ruling. ...

love it. the eeoc hasn't done jack for years. almost an obsolete agency that we continually fund.
The FLSA is the hardest, absolute hardest law to prove "breaking"....
The "comp time thing" is prevalent in every business in America. Government offices above all.
If this ruling holds, I'm going to have some fun.
Forced volunteering is the new keyword.
Thank you

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | March 31, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I have a question unrelated to the content of the article but not sure where else to ask:
Can a full-time, permanent federal government employee be on annual leave, work and accumulate comp time all on the same day? Example: Someone takes a day of annual leave and works from home to earn comp time while using annual leave that same day?
Thanks to anyone who can provide an answer.

Posted by: justhere | March 31, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

The EEOC violation is not so funny as the article tries to make it sound. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws, which are far removed from the FLSA. If OPM were found guilty of violating the FLSA, it would be a lot funnier.

Posted by: bigtom6156 | March 31, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

technically, no. Not all 3 at the same time. Gov agencies have different "policies", but law has different meanings for each annual, comp, and wage work.
Comp is a tricky scenario. Comp is "for exchange of hours worked" (for lack of better definition).

in fed gov. - annual leave has to be approved in advance (most practiced) AND it is pretty steadfast. Needs approval from supervisor, etc.

Therefore, if you are on annual leave - you are off the clock. You log on at home and do a bit of work. You must inform your supervisor (one who signed off on annual)--if you choose to. Get what I mean?

Your parameters of annual leave are already out there so to speak. You got it approved - you aren't supposed to be working, but you do for 2 hours---so we will adjust payroll for 2 hours of pay and 6 hours annual.
You say - can I just get comp time for the 2 hours? They will probably say no.
Under policy of the agency (if addressed within said policy) - not while you are ON annual leave, can comp be taken-because the precedent has been set.

The agency/company would come back to you and say "well, you worked 2 hours of your 8 hour annual leave". We will pay you for 2. And you will not get comp.
They may even get tough on you because of it ---We will not sign off on annual leave for you in the future if you continue to do this.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | March 31, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

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