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Eye Opener: April 9, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Thursday!

Today's Big Story: "Half a dozen investigators conducting security-clearance checks for the federal government have been accused of lying in the reports they submitted to the Office of Personnel Management, which handles about 90 percent of the background inquiries for more than 100 agencies," reports The Post's Del Quentin Wilber. "Federal authorities said they do not think that anyone who did not deserve a job or security clearance received one or that investigators intentionally helped people slip through the screening. Instead, law enforcement officials said, the investigators lied about interviews they never conducted because they were overworked, cutting corners, trying to impress their bosses or, in the case of one contractor, seeking to earn more money by racing through the checks."

Also of Note: Big changes continue at the Justice Department, as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. "began a series of personnel moves yesterday in one of the most sensitive and secretive sections of the Justice Department, part of his effort to restore public confidence in the nation's highest law enforcement operation," reports The Post's Carrie Johnson.

"For Holder...the announcements put his stamp on a building still reeling from the dismissal this week of criminal charges against former senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). The department is also facing fresh calls to reopen the cases of other prominent political figures."

But -- "The department said the moves had nothing to do with the Stevens case," according to James Oliphant of the LA Times.

An interesting point in today's WSJ: "Todd Foster, a former federal prosecutor in Tampa and Houston and a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, questions whether the [Stevens] case would have been re-examined as closely if it hadn't involved a U.S. senator. 'My question is what happens to the rest of us?' he asked. 'What happens when the person doesn't have the resources Sen. Stevens had? What happens to those cases that don't reach the attorney general?'"

In other news...

Obama's Science Policy: "The Obama administration might agree to auction only a portion of the emissions allowances granted at first under a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas pollution," White House science adviser John P. Holdren told The Post's Juliet Eilperin. It's "a move that would please electric utilities and manufacturers but could anger environmentalists." Raising Eyebrows, Holdren told The AP "that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth's air."

Keeping Tabs on the Stimulus Plan's Billions: Joe Davidson writes today about GAO's potential long-term challenges in tracking the federal government's economic recovery efforts. But -- "When it comes to employing people, the GAO has something going for it that has eluded many federal agencies -- a competent hiring process. "

A Vow of Help to Homeowners: Today HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan will discuss the administration's plans to to help families to save money by refinancing their home. In today's Post he shares his thoughts on home ownership, Michelle Obama and the real estate market.

Congress Weighs in On Cybersecurity With Two Bills: Gregg Carlstrom of Federal Times reports that "Days before the White House finishes its 60-day review of cybersecurity policy, Congress is jumping into the debate with legislation that creates a new White House adviser and toughens regulations for the private sector."

Pentagon Workforce Could Benefit From Wall Street Layoffs: "Laid-off financial sector employees might not need to look any further than the Pentagon in their quest for a job," reports Gov Exec's Elizabeth Newell. "The Defense Department's chief acquisition official on Wednesday said former private sector finance officials could be a perfect fit for thousands of jobs that will come open under a recently announced plan to boost the Pentagon's contracting workforce."

IT Contractors Split on Likely Effects of Obama Policies: "A new survey of federal information technology contractors finds them divided over the impact of Obama administration policies, with smaller firms expecting more competition on procurements and larger firms expressing concern about proposals aimed at reducing the role of contractors in government," reports Gov Exec/NextGov's Gautham Nagesh.

FCC Developing Plan To Deliver Broadband: The agency has begun "mapping out a plan to bring high-speed Internet service to the entire nation, starting with questions on how to increase its availability, improve its quality of service and make it more affordable," reports The Post's Cecilia Kang. "In a meeting yesterday, acting FCC Chairman Michael J. Copps invited comments from the public on the national broadband plan the agency has been ordered by Congress to complete by February 2010. He said the process for creating the plan will be 'open, inclusive, out-reaching and data-hungry.'"

Small-Business Agency Prodded to Spur Lending: "The chairman of the House Committee on Small Business yesterday urged the new head of the Small Business Administration to try to jump-start lending by using provisions in the economic stimulus bill that so far have sat idle," reports The Post's Brady Dennis. "One item authorized by the stimulus bill, the Business Stabilization Loan Program, provides for loans of up to $35,000 to small businesses so they can make payments on their outstanding debt. The loans would be 100 percent guaranteed by SBA."

US Intel Chief Touts New Generation Satellites: From The AP: "The US government has endorsed a plan to build a new generation of spy satellites, although funding to boost the Pentagon's imaging capacity still needs congressional approval. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said Tuesday that his agency and the Department of Defense had finalized a plan to modernize the fleet of US observation satellites.

Today's Big Event: President Obama along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will discuss new plans for the health care system for America’s veterans. In the audience: patients and health care providers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, National Naval Medical Center (Bethesda) and the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

By Ed O'Keefe  | April 9, 2009; 7:55 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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