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Eye Opener: March 9, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe


Eye Opener

Happy Monday! Over the weekend The Eye received several e-mails from loyal readers and food industry observers passing along blog posts that suggest the Obama administration will name a new head of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service today (The Eye first wrote about possible FSIS directors in late January). White House and USDA aides say however that no such announcement is coming today. But thanks for the tips and please send similar news articles, blog posts, tips, hunches, comments and events listings to federaleye@washingtonpost.com.

Posting may be a bit lighter today as The Eye goes to Maryland in pursuit of an answer to the next "Ask Your Government" question. Submit your questions for the Obama administration and/or federal agencies by joining The Federal Eye "Ask Your Government" Google Moderator Group. (Read or watch previous "AYG" answers here.)

As you can see in the video clip above, last night's "60 Minutes" reported an astonishing fact: "Most every Friday now, the FDIC is seizing several banks." So said Scott Pelley as he tagged along with FDIC agents that quietly seized a bank outside Chicago on a recent Friday night. His report provides a fascinating look at the critical, sensitive, secretive work of a small band of government employees.

If you think you're going to have a bad Monday, you're not Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. The New York Times, jumping on the "Geithner works alone" bandwagon, reports that "In the six weeks since Mr. Geithner took over as Treasury secretary, he and a skeleton crew of unofficial senior advisers have been racing to make decisions that will shape the future of the banking, insurance, housing and automobile industries. But even as he maintains a frenetic pace — unveiling plans, testifying before Congress and negotiating new bailouts with the likes of Citigroup, General Motors and the American International Group — there are signs that events are getting ahead of him.

Oh, and then they made fun of him on "Saturday Night Live":

Some important must-reads from Sunday's Post:
1.) Pentagon's Unwanted Projects in Earmarks: R. Jeffrey Smith and Ellen Nakashima report that several Congressional Democrats have "stuffed" various appropriations bills with hundreds of millions of dollars of projects "that the Pentagon did not request," creating unwanted work and supplies for DOD.

2.) Education's Chance of a Lifetime: Columnist David Broder recounts a recent conversation with Arne Duncan, concluding that the education secretary "has an opportunity to do more for a generation of youngsters than any education secretary in history, and my strong sense is that he is going to make the most of it." Duncan said Saturday that "$44 billion in federal stimulus aid to schools will be available to states in the next 30 to 45 days."

3.) Contracting-Overhaul Snags in Iraq: While the president called for the Defense Department to stop outsourcing some services last week, "A look at solicitations last week on the Web site FBODaily.com showed more than 40 notices about new and modified contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan," reports The Post's Walter Pincus. He notes that a solicitation for "a seven-member media team to support the public affairs officer of the 25th Infantry Division, now serving as Multi-National Division-North in Iraq" is an example "of the borderline cases that will be a challenge for government officials charged with writing new rules and enforcing them."

In other news...

Obama Loyalists Left Out in the Cold: Al Kamen's "In the Loop" hears that "a substantial number of loyal Obama campaign staffers are still out of work, milling about, waiting for jobs in the administration. The unemployed include not only low-level doorbell ringers but also top personnel in battleground states."

Oversight of Bank Bailouts Criticized: The Post's Amit Paley scoops that a new House investigation criticizes the Obama administration for failing to police deals that led U.S. banks participating in the $700 billion federal bailout to lend billions of dollars overseas.

Hill Panel Begins Review of Defense Acquisition System: The seven-member Panel on Defense Acquisition Reform, announced Friday by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), is to release a report on its findings after six months. It will not be the first, reports The Post's Steve Vogel.

Watchdog Over Stimulus Spending Toes a Delicate Line: A Wall Street Journal profile of stimulus watchdog Earl Devaney finds that fraud typically gobbles up around 7% of all big contracts.

Holder Chided for Language on Race: Obama took his AG to task for his "nation of cowards" comments during a NYT interview.

NASA Satellite Launches: The Post's Joel Achenbach reports the Kepler space satellite has one big question to answer: How many Earths are out there?

D.C. Region's Buildings Are 4th Greenest in U.S.: EPA has released its 2008 list of the 25 metropolitan areas with the most Energy Star buildings. and Washington came in at No. 4, behind Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston for big cities with the most Energy Star buildings by the end of 2008, reports The Post's Alejandro Lazo.

Coast Guard Modernization Stalls: That's because Congress has not passed an authorization bill for the service in two years, reports Gov Exec's Katherine McIntire Peters.

Terror-War Fallout Lingers Over Bush Lawyers: In the case of former DOJ lawyer John C. Yoo, the New York Times asks: What is a government lawyer’s responsibility if legal advice he gives turns out to be, in the view of many authorities, grievously flawed? Can he be blamed for damaging, and arguably illegal, acts carried out with his imprimatur? Should he suffer any punishment?

Worth a Look: As The Eye continues to report on the 2010 Census, make sure to check out a new blog all about it: MyTwoCensus.com. The bookmark-worthy site is operated by a team of writers concerned about next year's headcount.

Today's Big Event: The EnergyBiz Leadership Forum continues today at the Renaissance Mayflower in downtown Washington, D.C. Oracle president Charles E. Phillips Jr. and T. Boone Pickens address the crowd today. Also -- don't forget the next Young Government Leaders "Third Thursday" Happy Hour on March 19th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Vapiano's in Dupont Circle. Send your events listings to federaleye@washingtonpost.com.

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 9, 2009; 7:35 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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