Eye Opener: The Cabinet Marks Earth Day 2009
Happy Wednesday and Happy Earth Day! Several cabinet secretaries will do or say something to mark the holiday with speeches, appearances and Congressional testimony:
9:30 a.m.: Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson testify before House lawmakers about the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.
11 a.m.: Interior Ken Salazar holds a press conference announcing nearly $750 million in economic stimulus funds for the national park system on the green roof of the Interior Department's main building.
11:30 a.m.: Attorney General Eric Holder will dedicate a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. and mark the 100th anniversary of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division at Washington, D.C.'s Marvin Gaye Park.
11:30 a.m.: Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Brings Plenty and some children will plant the Three Sisters Garden in honor of American Indians' contribution to agriculture in USDA's new People's Garden. Secretary Tom Vilsack travels today to Iowa with President Obama. He announced funding for rural infrastructure projects yesterday to mark the holiday.
Noon: Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley hold a roundtable on green jobs for women at Labor Department headquarters. Solis and Chu pen an op-ed that appears in several newspaper today, including the Denver Post about the greening of the American economy.
Noon: EPA hosts an Earth Day festival outside headquarters. Agency scientists and employees will be there, along with the EPA band. Continues until 2:30 p.m.
2:30 p.m.: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announces a new program to implement department-wide environmentally responsible policies. She'll be joined in the department's Dean Acheson Auditorium by Sutley, undersecretary for management Patrick Kennedy, and Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern.
In other news...
• IGs Seek More Powers and Staffing to Oversee Contracting: The Eye reports that: "A new Senate subcommittee responsible for tracking government contracting heard yesterday from federal watchdogs seeking greater investigatory and enforcement powers and more staffing to try to keep up with the expansion in federal spending."
• Sebelius Clears Committee: The Senate Finance Commitee voted 15 to 5 to recommend the Kansas governor to the full Senate. No word yet on when all senators will vote on her nomination.
• Duckworth Nomination on Track: John Yaukey of Federal Times writes that "Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), senior Republican on the committee that must approve [Tammy] Duckworth’s nomination before the full Senate votes on it, had asked that she clarify financial information provided on questionnaires. Duckworth has done that, Burr’s spokeswoman said Monday. 'He got the paperwork, and he’s satisfied with it, and he supports her nomination,' said Samantha Smith, Burr’s press secretary."
• Christopher Hill Approved: The Boston Globe and AP report that Senators voted 73-23 to confirm the career diplomat "over the strenuous objections of Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican who accused Hill, the Bush administration's chief negotiator with North Korea, of ignoring North Korean human rights abuses and agreeing to a flawed disarmament pact."
• But They Did Not Seat the Deputy: Al Kamen writes today that "President Obama likes to make sure everyone knows that his domestic priorities are health-care reform, education and, of course, getting the economy out of its death spiral. But you can hardly tell that by looking at the number of folks confirmed for top jobs in the Cabinet departments that are key to those initiatives. ... The Cabinet agencies filling up fastest so far, counting holdovers, are the Justice Department, with 29 percent of its openings filled; Agriculture, at 25 percent; the Pentagon, with 21 percent; and the State Department, coming in at just under 19 percent, according to the NYU data."
• Ellen Moran Going from WH to Commerce: The White House communications director didn't seem to gel with Obama's inner circle "was something of a surprise choice last November for the communications director job," notes Jackie Calmes of the NYT. "Democrats praised her political skills but said she had not been a good fit inside the White House. She also has two small children, and associates said the pressures of the job had been a factor in her decision to move from the West Wing to the Commerce Department."
• New Military Command to Focus on Cybersecurity: Siobhan Gorman and Yorchi J. Dreazen of the WSJ report that "The initiative will reshape the military's efforts to protect its networks from attacks by hackers, especially those from countries such as China and Russia. The new command will be unveiled within the next few weeks, Pentagon officials said."
• Federal Funds for State Auditors: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) says he'll propose legislation to provide federal funding to state auditors tracking economic stimulus funds. He made the announcement during a committee field hearing in his home district of Brooklyn, N.Y. "Towns said the new state money would be separate from the $787 billion economic stimulus package, but an exact amount has yet to be determined. The new funds, he said, could not be used to beef up other areas of the state workforce," reports Gov Exec's Robert Brodsky.
• Stimulus Board Launches 'Extreme Makeover: Web Edition': National Journal's Carrie Dann writes that "The Obama administration is soliciting suggestions from information technology professionals, vendors and members of the public who think that its economic stimulus-tracking Web site needs a makeover. Beginning Monday, the team that administers the stimulus Web site Recovery.gov will host a weeklong forum -- conducted entirely on the Web -- to encourage participants to "submit ideas on website design, data collection, data warehousing, data analysis and visualization, waste, fraud, and abuse detection, and other topics that are key to achieving greater transparency and accountability,"
• NASA Study: Shuttle Replacement Schedule 'High Risk': "The report is the agency's most pessimistic public assessment yet of its ability to meet its own deadline for delivering the new system of rockets and exploration vehicles, called Constellation," reports Andy Pasztor of the Wall Street Journal. "It identifies a $1.9 billion "shortfall between the available funding" and the amount needed to achieve initial launch by September 2014. Tooling for parts of Constellation, ground tests and wind-tunnel tests have been deferred or reduced in scope because of previous funding cuts, the report concludes. Those problems could be exacerbated, the report warns, by future funding constraints, posing a "high programmatic risk" to Constellation development."
• Obama Open to Probe, Prosecutions of Top Officials Over CIA Interrogations: In contradiction to what White House officials said over the weekend. Still, he'd prefer an independent commission examine the moves, not Congress. Meanwhile The Post's Joby Warrick reports that National Intelligence Chief Dennis C. Blair tells the White House that harsh interrogations of suspected al-Qaeda officials produced "valuable" information, but that it's impossible to tell whether the same intelligence leads might have been obtained using less controversial methods.
• OPM's Efforts to Modernize Retirement System Sorely Lacking, GAO Finds: Joe Davidson writes today that "For more than two decades, the OPM has been trying to modernize retirement planning for federal employees. But despite some serious efforts, "the agency's retirement modernization initiative remains at risk of failure."
• DFAS to Return 600 Contractor Jobs to Feds: Elise Castelli of Federal Times reports that "The agency will hire Defense Department civilian employees to process retiree payments, a move expected to save more than $20 million over the next 10 years, said Tom LaRock, DFAS spokesman. The move will also give the agency the flexibility to manage complex cases, such as disabled veterans’ claims."
• Bus Safety Rules Are Long Overdue, Board Says: The National Transportation Safety Board "unanimously voted to cite the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to implement recommendations that could lead to new safety equipment on buses, including seatbelts and stronger roofs and windows. They have been prodding NHTSA to enact their suggestions since 1999," reports The Post's Sholhn Freeman.
• Congress Rejuvenates Clinton-Era Police Program: Jim Abrams of the AP reports that "The economic stimulus package enacted in February provided $1 billion to expand the Community Oriented Policing Services grant program, known as COPS. On Wednesday, the House is likely to pass a bill approving additional money for 50,000 new beat cops nationwide over the next five years."
• Rare F.D.A. Meeting to Discuss Complaints on Device Approval: "Dr. Donna-Bea Tillman, director of [FDA's] office of device evaluation, sent an e-mail message on April 10 announcing an “all-hands meeting” [for today] to discuss the strategic direction of the device center. Such a broad-based meeting that includes all scientists within the device evaluation office has not been held for years," reports Gardiner Harris of the New York Times.
• Census Bureau Pulled Back on Job Offers: The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that at least nine Census job applicants who thought they had a temporary job with the agency were turned away (h/t MyTwoCensus).
• EPA Previews Carbon Caps' Impact: "A proposal in Congress to cut U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by putting a price on carbon could raise prices for electricity by 22% and natural gas by 17% in 2030, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency," reports Stephen Power of the WSJ. "But the impact on consumers would be modest, provided the government returns the bulk of the money raised by a carbon cap-and-trade system to households, the analysis showed."
• EPA Proposal Targets Mercury in Cement Kilns: The agency proposed a new rule yesterday "that would slash mercury emissions from the nation's cement kilns, the fourth-largest domestic emitters of such pollution" reports The Post's Juliet Eilperin. "The agency estimated that, when fully implemented in 2013, the proposed rule...would cut the industry's mercury emissions by 81 percent and its sulfur dioxide emissions by 90 percent."
• Brookings, Washington University Boost Federal Executive Training Efforts: "On July 1, Washington University's John M. Olin Business School will take over management of Brookings' executive education programs, including the Legis Congressional Fellowship, which is open to civil servants in General Schedule Grades 13 and higher and to private sector executives," reports Gov Exec's Alyssa Rosenberg.
• Today's Big Events: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hears the nominations of Craig Fugate to be administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and John Morton to be assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A Who's Who in the federal employment world will also show up for a House Oversight and Government Reform federal workforce, postal service and the District of Columbia subcommittee hearing on “Public Service in the 21st Century: An Examination of the State of the Federal Workforce.”
| April 22, 2009; 5:47 AM ET
Categories: Eye Opener
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