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Eye Opener: March 27, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! It's one day until The Eye's birthday (and apparently until USA Passport Day)! National Park Service officials and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Thursday that they anticipate at least 1 million visitors to the National Mall's Tidal Basin to see the annual blooming of the Cherry Blossom trees. Next week, as part of The Federal Eye's "Eye On..." series of video reports on federal jobs, meet the National Park Service employees responsible for the care and maintenance of the historic trees.

Today's Big Story: Regarding yesterday's hearing for John Berry to serve as OPM director, The Post's Federal Diarist Joe Davidson makes an important point The Eye failed to mention: nearly all members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee stayed away from his confirmation hearing. "The audience section of the hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building yesterday was standing room only. But the seats reserved for the distinguished senators were largely empty; their water glasses full and untouched." GovExec's Alyssa Rosenberg reports that Berry told the two lawmakers in attendance he will "review pay-for-performance systems with an open mind."

In other news...

Reports of Long War's Death Apparently Premature: Following up on Al Kamen's report that the administration is changing the name of the "Global War on Terror," he reports today that OMB and Pentagon officials say no such policy exists. If that's the case, Al says that "anytime a senior administration official -- assistant secretary or above -- uses 'GWOT' or 'global war on terror,' in the present tense, in written testimony sent to the Hill" he'll contribute $1 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Send copies of the relevant page of testimony to intheloop@washpost.com or mail to In the Loop, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

Turf Battle (!) Begins to Unfold: A trio of Post business reporters write today that "Even as Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner yesterday was presenting to Congress his new blueprint for revamping financial oversight, federal regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission and elsewhere were joining the battle over the creation and apportionment of any expanded powers." More: "SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro urged that her agency play a major role" and "Rival agencies -- including the Federal Reserve, Commodity Futures Trading Commission and banking regulators -- already are pushing similar arguments."

Cabinet Secretary News: Obama joins Attorney General Eric Holder at George Washington University today; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appears at a Planned Parenthood event in Houston tonight; and senators will hold a confirmation hearing for Health and Human Services secretary nominee Kathleen Sebelius on April 2. More events here.

Ex-Lobbyist in Running For U.S. Attorney's Job: Neil MacBride, 43, a top candidate for U.S. attorney in Alexandria, lobbied federal officials as recently as mid-2007 on behalf of the Business Software Alliance, which represents Microsoft, IBM and a host of other leading computer companies, U.S. Senate records show, according to The Post's Jerry Markon and Meg Smith. "MacBride, a former chief counsel to Vice President Biden, was appointed in January as an associate deputy attorney general."

Senate Moves to Expand National Service Programs: "The vote was 78 to 20 on the measure, renamed the Senator Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, in honor of the Massachusetts Democrat who was a main architect of the legislation," reports the New York Times' David M. Herszenhorn.

80,000 on TSA’s ‘Cleared’ Fliers List: The government's list of “cleared” fliers, developed to cut airport hassles for people whose names are confused with suspects on the terrorist watch list, has grown to 80,000 names, according to Federal Times' Peter Eisler.

CDC Analysis Tracks Falls Related to Pets: "Federal government researchers yesterday filled in a blank spot on the map of life's hazards -- the part occupied by Spot, Fifi, the chew toy and the water bowl," reports The Post's David Brown. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that an average of 86,629 Americans visit the emergency room each year after a fall caused by pets or their paraphernalia."

White House to Coordinate Cybersecurity Efforts: But the administration will not create a separate office, said members of a House caucus that was briefed on the progress of the Obama administration's 60-day cyber review, according to NextGov's Jill R. Aitoro. "Melissa Hathaway, senior director for cyberspace for the National Security and Homeland Security councils, briefed the House Cybersecurity Caucus on Thursday about the progress she has made in the administration's review of agencies' cybersecurity efforts, which is more than halfway done."

SSA Plans Hiring Spree: It plans to hire 157 administrative law judges and more than 700 support staff to reduce a massive backlog of disability claims.
But Federal Times' Rebecca Neal reports that SSA Administrator Michael Astrue told lawmakers Tuesday that bringing new hires in won’t immediately reduce the backlog.

Fund Created for Fighting Wildfires: "The House voted 412 to 3 to create a fund to cover the costs of combating major wildfires. President Obama’s budget proposal included $357 million for a similar fund."

New Air-Navigation System FAA's Top Priority: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood predicted that the next FAA chief will jumpstart the controversial, multibillion dollar project, reports the Wall Street Journal's Susan Carey. "Mr. LaHood, a former Republican congressman from Illinois who was appointed to run the DOT by the Obama administration, was in Phoenix Thursday to announce stimulus grants to Arizona airports and to speak at an aviation conference."

Blueprint for Fixing the Food Safety System: Food safety blogger Bill Marler notes that "The Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have released a report which examines problems with the current system and proposes ways to improve the food safety functions at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to better protect the nation’s food supply."

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 27, 2009; 8:05 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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