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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/ 3/2011

10 things to watch across government in 2011

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy New Year! Want to know what The Federal Eye will be watching for in 2011? Here are 10 issues across the government worth tracking as the new year -- and the new Congress -- begins:

1.) Will President Obama order 5 percent spending cuts?

The president ordered agencies and departments to develop plans to make cuts, but hasn't made them official. Such cuts could severely impact non-defense agencies and programs. Also important: Will Obama propose allowing agencies to keep some of the savings for other priorities?

2.) Do Republicans propose even deeper spending cuts?

In the new Congress, Republicans promise to fight for spending cuts, a repeal of the new health care law and job creation. How much priority will they give to cutting and will they want to go further than Obama? Will they seriously push for the elimination of certain agencies and departments? (The Education or Commerce departments, are perennial favorite targets.) Also: Will Congress actually pass a budget this year?

3.) What, if anything, do Republican oversight efforts unearth?

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) appeared on three Sunday talk shows and called Obama's administration "one of the most corrupt." GOP investigations in the next two years could save taxpayers about $200 billion, he predicted. Several economic stimulus projects and senior administration could face serious Congressional investigations. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is "a particularly juicy target," The New York Times recently suggested, because of his involvement with terrorism cases, civil rights enforcement and immigration reform.

4.) Will Congress order changes at the U.S. Postal Service?

Postal reform could be the sleeper issue of the year -- and a politically tricky one. (Which lawmaker wants to become the champion of closing post offices?) But make no mistake: This is the year the Postal Service will really run out of money -- unless Congress seriously addresses postal reform. Pensions are ballooning, mail volume and revenues are plummeting and -- most perilous of all -- a $15 billion line of credit with the U.S. Treasury dries up this year. Two substantive legislative proposals are on the table and after years of avoiding the issue, it appears Congress will have to deliver a serious solution in 2011.

5.) How long will it take to officially end "don't ask, don't tell"?

Ask anyone at the Pentagon and they really, truly don't know. It took about eight years to fully integrate African Americans into the armed forces, but Obama, gay rights activists and lawmakers would not tolerate a similar timetable to officially permit gays and lesbians in uniform. Military leaders are expected to draft a training and implementation program, and then introduce it to the rank and file. Best guess: More than two months, less than a year.

6.) Will teleworking work?

Federal agencies and departments must expand the use of teleworking this year in an effort to cut operational costs, worker commutes and the government's environmental footprint. Though many are eligible, many federal managers are resistant to the work-from-home option. So will workers actually telework? And will their bosses let them?

7.) How does the federal worker pay freeze impact the rank and file?

Will a two-year freeze on federal pay lead to mass retirements or low morale? And how will the pay freeze impact Obama's campaign pledge to make the government "cool again"?

8.) What happens to federal hiring reform?

Will the pay freeze (see above) make moot the administration's efforts to reform how the government recruit and retains workers? And if older federal employees start to retire en masse, will the government be ready to replace them? (Lawmakers have warned that many agencies aren't ready for the impending brain drain.)

9.) Which government official, agency or department will cause embarrassment this year?

Last year Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack nearly derailed his tenure by quickly firing Shirley Sherrod and then having her rebuff repeated requests to rejoin USDA. The Securities and Exchange Commission faced days of negative headlines about porn-surfing employees and the Transportation Security Administration poorly countered the concerns of passengers upset by enhanced pat-downs while enduring several embarrassing incidents involving airport security officers. So who will screw up this year? Time will tell, but wasteful stimulus spending could yield some embarrassments. (See #3.)

10.) How fast will Washington's revolving door swing?

Several top White House aides soon will decamp to Chicago to begin Obama's reelection campaign and David Plouffe is moving into the West Wing. Tim Kaine appears to be staying put at the DNC and not moving to the Cabinet. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) is looking for a job, as are several former Democratic lawmakers -- will any of them get hired by Obama? And when will Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates retire? Bottom line: There's plenty to keep the Washington parlor games going.

Agree or disagree? What will you be watching for in 2011? your thoughts in the comments section below

Cabinet and Staff News: Obama's news-free vacation yielded recess appointments for six picks. Details of his politically touchy search for a new top economic adviser. Is Amb. Jon Huntsman (former Republican governor of Utah) thinking of running against Obama? Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visits Afghanistan. Hillary Clinton chats amicably with Hugo Chavez in Brazil. Vice President Biden is a linchpin for Obama's presidency. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts decries brawling over judicial nominees. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is tackling an ambitious export goal. In a Washington Post op-ed, Education Secretary Arne Duncan outlines a bipartisan blueprint for school reform.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
With Air Force's new drone, 'we can see everything': This winter, the Air Force is set to deploy to Afghanistan what it says is a revolutionary airborne surveillance system called Gorgon Stare.

Several warnings, then a soldier's lonely death: Too many unanswered questions remain about Sergeant David Senft's lonely death in a parked sport utility vehicle on an American air base in Afghanistan, and about whether the Army could have done more to prevent it.

Navy to probe lewd videos shown to carrier crew: A top officer aboard an aircraft carrier broadcast to his crew a series of profanity-laced comedy sketches in which he uses gay slurs and opens the shower curtain on women pretending to bathe together.

EPA:
Coal's burnout: Have investors moved on to cleaner energy sources?: The battle over coal plants could sharpen in 2011, as the agency deploys regulations to improve the efficiency of big power plants.

Texas launches another legal challenge to greenhouse-gas rules: The state filed its lawsuit just one day after a federal appeals court in New Orleans denied its request to suspend the administration's efforts to issue greenhouse-gas permits on the state's behalf.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
As control of the House turns over, young aides perform a familiar shuffle: Job insecurity is a fact of life for the 10,000 or so at-will Hill workers who form the backbone of Congress.

Public workers facing outrage as budget crises grow: Across the nation, a rising irritation with public employee unions is palpable.

For Capitol's nursing mothers, an escape from politics: Some of the most inconspicuous rooms on Capitol Hill have the most colorful nicknames -- Lactation Lobby, Lactation Station, Milk Factory and Boob Cube.

NTSB:
NTSB bars airline from accident probe: The agency says American Airlines improperly downloaded information for its own use from the flight-data recorder of a Boeing 757 that rolled off the end of a runway at Jackson Hole on Dec. 29.

STATE DEPARTMENT:
Diplomats help push jet sales on global market: United States diplomats, acting like marketing agents, offered deals to heads of state and airline executives whose decisions could be influenced by price, performance and perks.

TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT:
An unlikely duo's auto safety quest: A college professor and a former federal transportation official team up to seek standard installation of black boxes in cars.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | January 3, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Comments

I'm not Surprised the New Orleans Federal Court made a pro-business Decision. It's the go to for many Texas Business venues that want to win their cases. Those Cases were Plaintiff won in Texas Courts.

Companies Appeal and Appeal until they can get New Orleans to Overturn them.

Posted by: ddoiron1 | January 3, 2011 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I see that the Republicans will be walking on a path of eggshells. There will no tolerance for the business as usual approach to government. Clearly, the voting public, read middle class taxpayers and senior citizens, wanted to curtail what was viewed as a wrong course in government and spending. Given that landscape, the new Republican majority might want to walk very softly in this fragile political landscape.

The real argument is one of priorities. Many politicians feel that big, sweeping changes demonstrate their competence. Forgotten in the desire to leave a mark, is the maintenance of the govenment itself. Like a builder with no plan, yet adds here and there, forgetting critical elements, our politicians often do not want to deal with the actual maintenance of government.

The example I would choose would be the states, where public employees are the teachers, firefighters, and police. In NJ, Governor Christie is making lots of noise about taking on the unions and reducing pensions and benefits, and perhaps even salaries of active workers. His claim is that the state will be bankrupt without major changes. What the governor fails to point out is that NJ has not made any payments to the pension system since 2008. Small wonder the system is nearing bankruptcy. One hears that same cry in many states and local governments.

My question is why tear down what works. These are highly qualified people who pay taxes and contrubute to their communities. Are roads more important than children? Do we need more buildings rather than good fire response, or police protection?

Government is more than it's employees. It is an extension of services for the common good of all residents. With that, comes common sense and a set of clearly defined priorities. It is that lack of direction or priorities which leads us into these chaotic situations and clearly all governments at all levels must examine and return to the basics of their mandates.

Our newly elected politicians must treat very carefully with their new found authority. Debt commissions and the like are smoke and mirrors and serve only to distract from the responsibility to govern.

My caution would be restraint, and to go carefully before undoing what is working. Any sensible person has to be guided by principles rather than ideas. Politicians, do not be fooled into thinking that there is a green light. Voters and constituants will be closely watching.

Posted by: olddesert_rat | January 3, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Issa will investigate "ONE OF" the most Corrupt not "THE" most Corrupt Bush Administration.

Those Staffers caught looking up SEX Videos didn't have much to do after Bush and Company relieved them of their work load and tided their hands from looking at his Corruption.

Posted by: ddoiron1 | January 3, 2011 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Moderate Democrat in a state that is predomainately is ran and has been taken over by Republicans. I feel that government needs checks and balances, but that the rule of law is in place. In Obama's Administration I have seen that he has wants to lean more to the left and we must not forget that in politics it is about compromise. Furthermore, if he wanted to lean more to the left he should have waited for his last four years. Why I'm making this statement because all the states that used to be Democratically controlled have converted Republican. I don't mind have a Republican control the State as long as he or she is Moderate like my soon to be former governor Charlie Crist. Republicans have won elections because people have wanted to stress that the Obama Administration is not performing well. I must agree with many voters he has lacked being bipartisan. It is my opinion that I do not think he will be president in the next term.

Posted by: fjavierramon | January 3, 2011 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Moderate Democrat in a state that is predomainately is ran and has been taken over by Republicans. I feel that government needs checks and balances, but that the rule of law is in place. In Obama's Administration I have seen that he has wants to lean more to the left and we must not forget that in politics it is about compromise. Furthermore, if he wanted to lean more to the left he should have waited for his last four years. Why I'm making this statement because all the states that used to be Democratically controlled have converted Republican. I don't mind have a Republican control the State as long as he or she is Moderate like my soon to be former governor Charlie Crist. Republicans have won elections because people have wanted to stress that the Obama Administration is not performing well. I must agree with many voters he has lacked being bipartisan. It is my opinion that I do not think he will be president in the next term.

Posted by: fjavierramon | January 3, 2011 9:09 AM | Report abuse

"The real argument is one of priorities. Many politicians feel that big, sweeping changes demonstrate their competence. Forgotten in the desire to leave a mark, is the maintenance of the government itself.
Posted by: olddesert_rat"

It's a good thing that so many of the new Republicans are or related to former small business owners. They know how organizations work. They know they need to cut back, invest and maintain to keep a business afloat. They aren't, like say a community organizer or political machine boss might be, focused on those sweeping changes that might define their careers. In the end they're small business owners at heart looking to fulfill a market's need and provide the economic opportunities and responsibilities for their family.

While I can see a great many of Americans shirking at those economic responsibilities that may be pressed upon them the small business owner father/mother only have the best and almost entirely unselfish interests out for us.

Posted by: cprferry | January 3, 2011 10:10 AM | Report abuse

"Issa will investigate "ONE OF" the most Corrupt not "THE" most Corrupt Bush Administration."

I'm pretty tired of the "Bush was worse at (fill-in-the blank) excuse for everything this administration does. Yes, the Bush administration was horrible. That in itself should be enough NOT to make them the measuring stick for everything Obama's admistration does. If you fire a worker and hire a new one who is marginally better, do you give him a free pass on his shortcomings just because the last guy was so terrible? Absolutely not. Furthermore, the Bush administration is two years gone. It serves no purpose to talk about how corrupt, inept, terrible, etc. they were. What can you do about it now? Bupkiss. Move on and concentrate on the present.

Posted by: pswift00 | January 3, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

One thing that is not mentioned anywhere is the effect of a Tea Bagger Congress on the tax and spending deal that was struck in the lame duck period. Tax cuts for the rich are in the books, but wouldn't the extension of unemployment benefits require action by Congress to authorize spending in FY11? Seems to me the Republics can have their tax cuts for the rich while reneging on extension of funding for the unemployment benefits.

Posted by: Fiscal-Conservative | January 3, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse


things to watch in washington?

PERKS !!!

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | January 3, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

With the tax package that passed during the lame duck, that means we'll be approaching the debt ceiling much faster. The activities we need to watch for are whether the Republican leadership actually leads, and looks for realistic spending cuts to avert a showdown and ultimate crisis when we hit that ceiling. We can't keep cutting revenue and yet still expect to be able to pay the bills! It's tantamount to thinking you can quit your $100k/yr job to take a job flipping burgers for $10/hr ... and believe you'll still be able to make the payments on your mansion, the boat, the expensive car, all the insurance, the utilities, and still be able to put food on the table. That's just not going to happen. My biggest fear is that the tea party constituents, in their infinite stupidity of the decade, will push for even more tax cuts as well as for not raising the ceiling and then succeed. That would cause our nation to default on its debts, and would risk allowing U.S. currency to lose its preferred status around the world. You think this last recession was bad? Let's see just how bad this next crowd makes the next pending recession on the horizon.

Posted by: Rockblot | January 3, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I am sure Republicans will get as much spending cuts as possible until a Republican takes office and suddenly the cuts stop magically until a Democrat takes office again

Posted by: Bious | January 3, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Maybe you should have added #11: Self-serving gridlock. 2011 will see everyone from the President on down posturing and maneuvering for reelection in 2012.

Posted by: 65tarheel | January 3, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

The thing I will be watching for is developments on the recommendation to trim federal retirement and health coverage. This is, combined with pay freezes, is causing me to consider moving back to the private sector where at least I know what to plan for in retirement.

Posted by: WhoRYou | January 3, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

With two years to the next election I expect no more from either party than partisan posturing. If you want to reduce government spending try the following; use service based costing to charge for all servies provided to business including the airlines, eliminate all subsidies, eliminate all income tax and impose a 15% federal sales tax with no expections. Provide no disability insurance or medical coverage for occupational illness or injury - require employers to pay for it. Immeadiately eliminate early social security benefits and increase the benefit eligability age to 73. Use strategic weapons to punish countries supporting terrorism, no need for troop deployment and associated costs.

Posted by: Sailorjazz | January 3, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

another thing to watch...

how many times Boehner cries......

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | January 3, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

"Intel has to be right 100% of the time, while terrorists only have to succeed once".

Seems to me that still applies, and will be interesting to see who gets the blame if/when the next attack succeeds.

Will it be one IC Agency, all IC Agencies, the DNI structure, Law Enforcement, DHS?

Or, perhaps Congress for mandating things per the 9/11 Commission for everyone else to implement (even though many were illogical and haven't accomplished the claimed benefits), while failing to make any of the Commission recommended changes regarding Congressional Oversight committees' restructuring, openness and accountability?

Or, perhaps POTUS, for failing to lead on National Security?

Or, how about Wikileaks-esque anarchists?

Or, the biases media?

Probably all will have a piece they could have done better, via 20-20 Hindsight, when the meaningful dots seem clear vs the noise.

BUT, I wonder if anyone will blame the Terrorists? their supporters? and the failure of the "claimed mainstream" representatives of whatever political/cultural/religious group to speak out and act against their own extreme elements.

I'll be surprised if the responses by politicians/media, following the next attack, puts blame on the perpetrators of their indiscriminate assault on all they hate (men, women, children, elders, whomever they define as deserving atrocities/destruction).

I'll be watching. Hope I'm surprised...but, I doubt it.

Posted by: maowg63 | January 3, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

"Intel has to be right 100% of the time, while terrorists only have to succeed once".

Seems to me that still applies, and will be interesting to see who gets the blame if/when the next attack succeeds.

Will it be one IC Agency, all IC Agencies, the DNI structure, Law Enforcement, DHS?

Or, perhaps Congress for mandating things per the 9/11 Commission for everyone else to implement (even though many were illogical and haven't accomplished the claimed benefits), while failing to make any of the Commission recommended changes regarding Congressional Oversight committees' restructuring, openness and accountability?

Or, perhaps POTUS, for failing to lead on National Security?

Or, how about Wikileaks-esque anarchists?

Or, the biases media?

Probably all will have a piece they could have done better, via 20-20 Hindsight, when the meaningful dots seem clear vs the noise.

BUT, I wonder if anyone will blame the Terrorists? their supporters? and the failure of the "claimed mainstream" representatives of whatever political/cultural/religious group to speak out and act against their own extreme elements.

I'll be surprised if the responses by politicians/media, following the next attack, puts blame on the perpetrators of their indiscriminate assault on all they hate (men, women, children, elders, whomever they define as deserving atrocities/destruction).

I'll be watching. Hope I'm surprised...but, I doubt it.

Posted by: maowg63 | January 3, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

The USPS can not run out of money when the government owes the USPS OVER 70 BILLION DOLLARS in overcharges over the last 40 years! PLEASE tell the truth about the post office for once! If congress would quit stealing from the USPS, it would be making money like crazy. Pensions are NOT ballooning, the amount the USPS has overpaid into the pension fund has ballooned. Mail volumes are NOT still plummeting, mail volumes are on the rebound.

PLEASE STOP THE CONSTANT LIES ABOUT THE USPS!!!

When and individual gets their tax refund (the amount he or she overpaid), it is NOT a bailout.

When the USPS gets back the amount it was overcharged, it will NOT be a bailout.

Posted by: rbmills321 | January 3, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

The 10 things to watch along with all the POSTS ignores the most obvious and immediate deficit reduction we can make. STOP FIGHTING A WAR TO PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF THE OIL INDUSTRY. Bring our troops home. If we are willing to sacrifice our youth, then let it be for a just cause like protecting Americans here at home. As we enter our tenth year of this stupidness, it is long past the time when our leaders must show the courage to end what has been and continues to be a NO WIN situation.

Posted by: destro23 | January 3, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Ed, you have given us lots to think of, but you failed to mention the one thing that we will all be watching in 2011...JOBS!

Posted by: Confido | January 3, 2011 7:44 PM | Report abuse

11.) Will the Washington Compost stop shilling for their Master the inept President of the 57 States of America.

Posted by: fe59 | January 3, 2011 9:28 PM | Report abuse

This is for Destro23 I believe that we was attacked 9/11/01 and that is why we are in a war. I suppose you are like all liberals you don't have a very good memory or are all you liberals chicken sh/t JUST ASKING .

Posted by: randalljnr | January 3, 2011 10:44 PM | Report abuse

As the cost of Obamacare and healthcare overall increase in 2011 - How much closer will America come to understanding that Medicare For Everyone is less costly and would be a better system.
-
What about REAL campaign finance reform in 2011 & 2012? Without it; America's education, jobs and healthcare will continue to slide it's approach to third world levels.

Posted by: AnUnhappySeniorDem | January 4, 2011 12:46 AM | Report abuse

@ randalljnr... "we was attacked"? Was we really? Glad to see you show your 3rd grade English on rebound. If we were attacked by muslims on 911, why was NORAD ordered to stand down by the VP? Where is the fusilage from the 737 that crashed into the Pentagon? Why were witnesses at the flight towers told to shut up? Why did Bld 7 collapse completely but wasn't part of the twin towers and a few buildings away?

Until we get a REAL investigation, I say BS to all you brainwashed deeks! My memory works quite well, apparently your memory is riding on automatic. JUST ASKING my a ss!

Posted by: darbyohara | January 4, 2011 6:22 AM | Report abuse

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