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O'Eye Opener: March 17, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Maidin Mhaith and Happy St. Patrick's Day! Enjoy the holiday, be safe and as you drink or eat today, consider the merits of these developments:

"The Pentagon yesterday suspended plans to move additional civilian workers from the traditional General Schedule employee classification to the controversial National Security Personnel System," reports The Post's Joe Davidson. "Under pressure from federal employee unions, members of Congress and a skeptical new commander in chief, the Defense Department and the Office of Personnel Management jointly announced that they will undertake a review of the NSPS.

"The system has been widely criticized by federal employees, who distrust the personnel evaluations used as part of its pay-for-performance approach. Critics also fear that the system could, at some point, hold down wages for civilian military personnel."

In his Federal Diary column, Davidson suggests "Step by step, federal employees are feeling the impact of the Obama administration on their lives."

While federal workers may smile about that news, other developments may bring them pause:

"A leading Republican senator maintains that President Obama is violating a campaign promise with his claim that he can bypass whistle-blower protections for executive branch officials who give certain information to Congress," reports Charlie Savage of The New York Times. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) "sent a letter to Mr. Obama on Friday that condemned a signing statement the president attached to the $410 billion catchall spending bill he signed into law last week." (More on the signing statement here.)

"In this statement, Mr. Obama flagged a provision that protects officials who give information to Congress about their jobs or agencies. He said the statute could not limit his power to control the flow of certain information to lawmakers. 'I do not interpret this provision,' he wrote, 'to detract from my authority to direct the heads of executive departments to supervise, control and correct employees’ communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential.'"

"In his letter, Mr. Grassley called Mr. Obama’s statement 'overly broad' and said it would 'undoubtedly chill whistle-blowers who might otherwise come forward to report waste, fraud or abuse to Congress.' He asked Mr. Obama to enforce and obey the statute fully."

In other news...

President's Visits Buoy Federal Employees: "President Obama strode into a cramped room at the Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday, faced a few dozen employees in stackable chairs and spoke for 12 minutes. He made no news, shook some hands and hustled back to the White House, just two blocks away," reports The Post's Philip Rucker. "But his short visit to the department's Vermont Avenue headquarters rallied many of the 280,000 workers at an agency bearing the brunt of two long, ongoing wars. Hundreds of workers filled a basement cafeteria to hear him speak. A 29-year human resources specialist said the president made her believe she is part of his mission to change government. And a file clerk said Obama inspired her to believe she is more than a lowly bureaucrat."

Pick for FDA Faces an Agency in Crisis: The Wall Street Journal's Alicia Mundy with a look-ahead for Obama's pick, Margaret "Peggy" Hamburg.

Will the Administration's Census Policy Put Politics above Science?: Douglas O'Brien of the American Thinker blog suggests it might. (Hat tip:

Call for Border Troops Questioned: "Some civic leaders along the Texas-Mexico border are beginning to speak out against a request by Texas Gov. Rick Perry for federal troops to protect American communities from the drug wars in Mexico," reports The Wall Street Journal's Stephanie Simon. "The White House is reviewing Gov. Perry's request for 1,000 National Guard troops and six helicopters with infrared night vision. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said last week that the administration was committed to providing additional resources soon. Many border officials welcome the promise of additional federal resources. But some are pushing back against a possible military deployment, saying federal troops would inflame tensions and spread fear. They say the border has been unfairly depicted as a scary, lawless place."

Modernizing Mailings: Graphic Arts Online notes that "Going postal is taking on an increasingly positive ring" as USPS loosens "regulations that open options for more creative mailers—items such as dimensional mail and Post-it Note ride-alongs affixed to magazines and letters."

Bad Bet on Medical Records: Stephen B. Soumerai and Sumit R. Majumdar write on today's Post op-ed page that "The recently enacted stimulus package included $20 billion for health IT, and, indeed, the $50 billion the administration initially earmarked is almost twice the annual budget of the National Institutes of Health. Yet while this sort of reform has popular support, there is little evidence that currently available computerized systems will improve care. In short, it's the wrong investment to make at this time."

Will Obama Take on The FEC?: Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center opines in today's Politico that "Come May 1, President Barack Obama will face a first test of whether he will make good on his promise to change the way Washington works. The test will come at an agency that most Americans have never even heard of -- the Federal Election Commission -- where there could be three vacancies that day."

Today's Big Event: At 10:30 a.m., First Lady Michelle Obama joins YouthBuild AmeriCorps students doing preliminary work to build a "green" home on the National Mall as part of a demonstration of the skills learned in their growing green-jobs program. As today's Federal City Digest reports, the home will then be transported to Brownsville, Tex., for completion and given to a single mother there whose mobile home was damaged last summer by Hurricane Dolly. Send your events listings to

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 17, 2009; 7:53 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: Tallying Visits From the Boss (or the Boss's Wife)


Good move. Now stop contracting out without a review of the results. No review and no mechanism to change back should mean no contract.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | March 17, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

"Some civic leaders along the Texas-Mexico border are beginning to speak out against a request by Texas Gov. Rick Perry for federal troops to protect American communities from the drug wars in Mexico,"

Of course. It is an old border and over the years many accomodations have been made. All the Sheriffs that I know of are bought off. Federal troops who are not on the take will be a big problem for many of these people.

If we send troops we need a double dose of IG officers.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | March 17, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

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