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Eye Opener: April 14, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! Here's your daily review of goings-on around the federal government:

Treasury Plans to Tap Fannie Mae Chief to Run Bailout: "The Treasury Department is moving closer to naming Fannie Mae chief executive Herbert M. Allison Jr. to run its financial recovery program, according to people familiar with the matter," reports The Post's Zachary Goldfarb. "Allison, who has led Fannie Mae since the government seized the firm in September, for weeks has been a candidate to run the Troubled Assets Relief Program, the $700 billion federal initiative to stabilize banks, keep struggling borrowers in their homes and spur lending. Other candidates for the post have dropped from contention."

Mona Sutphen Profiled: The White House deputy chief of staff "is perhaps the least well known of the Obama administration's senior advisers, but for years she has worked alongside the most influential members of the Democratic foreign policy establishment," reports The Post's Scott Wilson. "As a respected foreign policy thinker in a job coordinating President Obama's vast domestic policy agenda, she embodies the way this administration blurs the line between the two, believing that issues such as public education, regulatory reform and economic recovery no longer stop at the water's edge.

The Cabinet: Treasury Secretary Geithner meets with the British ambassador to the U.S., Transportation Secretary LaHood blogs about the economic recovery package, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack names a deputy undersecretary for FFAS and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano hosts First Lady Michelle Obama at DHS headquarters.

Pressure On Agencies to Manage Stimulus Construction Funds: "Construction and maintenance spending under President Obama's economic recovery plan likely will eclipse the inflation-adjusted spending by WPA during the Great Depression," reports Gov Exec's Elizabeth Newell. "According to Engineering News-Record, a construction industry publication, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocates approximately $131 billion for construction-related spending. WPA spending was almost $10 billion, which is about $122 billion in 2009 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics."

SEC Reviewing Omission of Merrill Bonuses From Filing: Did Bank of America break the law by failing to disclose bonuses it was planning to pay Merrill Lynch employees before buying the Wall Street investment bank last year? Goldfarb and Amit Paley report the agency is working to determine yes or no.

Report: Internal E-mail Compromised Airport Security Test: "A Transportation Security Administration official compromised the covert testing of airport security screeners by sending out an e-mail about the testing and did not report the compromise," reports NextGov's Gautham Nagesh.

DoD Adding 20,000 Contracting Officers: " After years of unprecedented growth in contract spending and no growth in in-house staffing, the Defense Department plans to swell its acquisition workforce by 15 percent," reports Federal Times' Elise Castelli. "Secretary Robert Gates announced last week plans to hire 20,000 new acquisition professionals by 2015. Of those, 9,000 would be new jobs and 11,000 would convert from contractor-held positions. The shift would begin in 2010, with 1,600 new jobs and 2,500 conversions."

OSHA Firing Employee Put on Paid Leave: Joe Davidson updates the story of 37-year Bob Whitmore, a Labor Department employee who has been on paid administrative leave for almost two years.

Pay for Performance Debate Centers on Incentives: "While lawmakers and the Obama administration continue to wrangle over how best to implement new federal pay-for-performance systems, some employee representatives say the salary structure already in place in most of government is sufficient for rewarding performance," reports Gov Exec's Alex M. Parker.

Report Urges Updating of Nuclear Weapons Policy: Walter Pincus reports that "'From Counterforce to Minimal Deterrence,' a 57-page report released last week by two arms-control advocacy groups, takes a close look at 'strike options,' giving their view of the role nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombs play in today's post-Cold War world."

IG: IRS Must Do More to Prevent Fraudulent Refunds: The tax collecting agency "must improve how it monitors frozen tax refunds to prevent individuals from fraudulently receiving refunds and payments from the 2008 stimulus," writes Gov Exec's Newell.

Extra Pay for Federally Employed Reservists: "Rob Sperling earns a healthy salary as the acting communications director for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. But, until now, when he was called up to serve his country with the Air Force Reserve, Sperling’s pay could be cut by a third. A new law fixes that," writes Stephen Losey of the Federal Times. "Federal employees who previously received pay cuts when they were called up for reserve and National Guard duty will now receive salary supplements to make up the difference, beginning with the pay period that started March 15."

Chrysler Lenders Expected to Counter Treasury: "The senior lenders to Chrysler are planning to make a counteroffer to the Treasury Department this week, pushing back on a debt-reduction plan they say is too coercive," reports Michael J. de la Merced of the New York Times.

Report: U.N. Spent U.S. Funds on Shoddy Projects: "Two United Nations agencies spent millions in U.S. money on substandard Afghanistan construction projects, including a central bank without electricity and a bridge at risk of 'life threatening' collapse, according to an investigation by U.S. federal agents," reports Ken Dilanian of USA Today. "The U.N. ran a "quick impact" infrastructure program from 2003 to 2006 under a $25 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development."

Michael Brown, After the Storm: An arguably lame Q&A with the former FEMA director, conducted by Politico's Patrick Gavin.

More Female Justices Needed? Playing off conventional wisdom that President Obama will name a woman when his first Supreme Court vacancy occurs, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick wonders "Is gender balance necessary for the court to have what political scientists like to call 'social legitimacy'? Or is there something more fundamental that women bring to the bench—something about the way they decide cases—that makes the need for more of them so urgent?"

By Ed O'Keefe  | April 14, 2009; 6:49 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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