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Eye Opener: Geithner Needs Help!

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Monday! You saw this coming:

The Post's David Cho reports today that "Government officials, inside the Treasury and out, say the unresolved issues are piling up in part because of vacancies in the department's top ranks. But some of the officials also cite the Treasury's ad-hoc management, which is dominated by a small band of Geithner's counselors who coordinate rescue initiatives but lack formal authority to make decisions. Heavy involvement by the White House in Treasury affairs has further muddied the picture of who is responsible for key issues, the officials add.

"One of the department's signature initiatives, considered vital for getting at the root of the financial crisis, aims at relieving banks of their toxic assets. But to those familiar with the program, it remains unclear who will decide some of the practical details, such as whether foreign firms will be allowed to participate in the funds that buy the assets. This uncertainty is slowing the rollout of the program, which in any case has proven daunting to design. Announced in early February, it may not launch until July, officials say.

"Help could soon be on the way," Cho reports. "Confirmation hearings for Neal Wolin, the administration's pick for deputy Treasury secretary, began a week ago. Treasury staff members have been impressed by the management skills of former Fannie Mae chief executive Herbert M. Allison Jr., who awaits confirmation as Geithner's pick to lead the bailout operations. The White House is also seeking to bolster the Treasury's ranks by adding former Clinton press secretary Jake Siewert as counselor to Geithner.

A quick scan of The Post's Head Count shows there are nine slots still to fill at the Treasury Department with ten selections announced or nominated still awaiting Senate confirmation. In recent days, Obama has tapped D.C.'s city administrator for a Treasury job and Treasury counselor Stephanie Cutter, a veteran Democratic political operative, is moving her things next door to help coordinate the White House's rollout of a Supreme Court nominee.

Other Cabinet and Staff News: Meet "The Receptionist of The United States." Peter Orszag says the economic freefall "Seems to have stopped." How Obama is like George H.W. Bush on foreign policy. Meet America's new ambassador to China who is quite experienced on the topic (and is his twin Terry McAuliffe?) Former U.S. envoy to Iraq Ryan Crocker speaks out on his retirement and against military action in Pakistan. Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal works on one meal a day. Gary Locke takes a victory lap back home in Seattle. The NYT editorial board asks EPA's Lisa Jackson to keep tabs on the Hudson River cleanup project. Virginia's former lieutenant governor headed to the Baltic? The president's foreign policy speechwriter preps the big address to the Muslim world.

In other news...

VA Doc: Other Possible Equipment Errors Reported: While thousands of former patients might have been exposed to infection at three Veterans Affairs facilities, yet other VA patients are not being warned about less serious mistakes with the same equipment at more than a dozen other VA centers.

Nuclear Cleanup Awards Questioned: The Energy Department has begun releasing more than $6 billion in stimulus money to clean up 18 nuclear sites from New York to California, more than doubling the typical yearly funding for the program. Contractors helped shape the stimulus package and are lined up to get the work, including many that have been cited for serious safety violations and costly mistakes.

Watchdog Digs Into Conduct at SEC: How the agency's inspector general is working to improve its image in the post-Madoff world.

Once Again, Hubble Surprises Astronauts: They're making some of it look easy miles above Earth's atmosphere.

Obstacles In Making Case For More F-22 Fighters: The resolve of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Obama, along with the flagging support of two major allies, has compromised the standard arguments of military need, industrial preparedness and jobs.

A Navy Psychologist on the Military and Mental Health: Ex-Navy psychologist Heidi Kraft tells The Post's Sunday Outlook how to avoid another Camp Liberty incident.

The Pentagon's Obsession With Counterinsurgency: "Once the province of graduate students and historians of the conflicts in Vietnam and Algeria, this resurgent doctrine of how to wage a type of unconventional war has become the lens through which the American defense establishment analyzes what happened in Iraq, what to do now in Afghanistan, and the very future of warfare."

DOD Cancels Work on Marine One Helicopter Project: The government canceled the $13 billion project on Friday.

DOD Names Task Force to Review NSPS: A three-member task force will conduct a review of the controversial Bush-era pay-for-performance program that has been frozen by the Obama administration.

Labor to Withdraw Risk Assessment Proposal: Critics have said the proposed rule would add extra steps to an already slow regulatory process by making it harder to prove the level of risk workers face when exposed to toxins on the job.

Fewer Than Half of High-Tech ID Cards Issued: The White House said in budget documents released May 11 that 2.7 million ID cards — about 48 percent of the total 5.6 million cards to be issued — had been issued to employees and contractors as of the beginning of March.

Data-Sharing Board Pushed for DHS: A privacy panel Thursday urged the agency to strengthen information-sharing policies by creating an internal board to manage and oversee how data is used, stored and shared across the intelligence community.

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 18, 2009; 5:59 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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