Monthly Archives: February, 2009

Mule Skinner Blues

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Say what you will about the Transportation Security Administration, at least they’re being thorough this time. CNN says TSA is requiring some colonial reenactors at an Easton, Pa., historical park to undergo background checks and apply for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential card. These mule skinners regularly guide two mules named Hank and George as they pull a boat down a two-mile canal at the Hugh Moore Historical Park. Usually only transportation workers such as longshoremen or truck drives are required to apply for TWIC cards, but since the mule skinners hold Coast Guard credentials to operate the canal boat, TSA…

D.C. could get a voting representative

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The Senate passed a long-awaited bill giving District of Columbia residents a voting representative in the House. The bill, S 160, passed Thursday 61-37 with six Republicans voting in favor of the bill. The bill also creates an at-large House seat for Utah, which barely missed gaining a seat in the 2000 Census. That measure was expected to garner more Republican support for the legislation, which would create a Republican seat to balance out the overwhelmingly Democratic District of Columbia. That doesn’t mean representation for the district is a sure thing; groups opposed to the legislation are sure to quickly…

2010 Budget: Program cuts

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During a news briefing this morning at the Old Executive Office Building to roll out his 2010 budget, President Obama provided a little more detail about some of the nearly $2 trillion in proposed cuts he mentioned during his joint session to Congress on Tuesday. The highlights — or lowlights, depending on your view: Nearly $200 million at the Interior Department by cutting programs to clean up abandoned coal mines that have already been cleaned up. Nearly $20 million by modernizing programs and streamlining bureaucracy at the Agriculture Department. Tens of millions of dollars by cutting an Education Department student…

Stress tests could stress feds (wonky)

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The Treasury Department unveiled guidelines (pdf) today for its bank “stress tests” (I have more details in this week’s paper). Seems to me the guidelines will put some federal employees — namely, the bank regulators — in a tough position. Here’s why. According to Treasury’s guidelines, regulators have to assess the 19 biggest U.S. banks using two economic scenarios. One of them is the “standard” scenario — what most economists think will happen to our economy over the next two years. The other is a sort of worst-case scenario. If banks fail the tests — basically if they have too many questionable…

House passes appropriations omnibus

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The House of Representatives voted 245-178 to pass a $410 billion appropriations omnibus to fund the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year. The federal government — except for the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments — have been operating under a continuing resolution since the beginning of the fiscal year. The CR is set to expire March 6, but it could be extended should the Senate not vote in time. The Senate may take up debate on the bill, HR 1105, this week, but it has not yet scheduled a vote.

Congress could throw out outsourcing

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A provision in the omnibus spending bill could halt public-private job competitions for federal work. The provision introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., would temporarily suspended public-private competitions for federal employees’ jobs conducted under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76. Other bill provisions indroduced by the lawmakers would: Require agencies insource work currently performed by contractors and to allow federal employees to perform new work. Require agencies determine the size of their contractor workforces. Prevent agencies from outsourcing functions performed by 10 or fewer employees without holding a competition. The American Federation of Government…

Orszag: Sufficient numbers of procurement personnel a must

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Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag told agency officials gathered for the first recovery plan implementation meeting today to make sure they have enough contracting and acquisition personnel to oversee stimulus spending. In addition to following the reporting guidelines he laid out in 62 pages last week, Orszag said: I would identify the need for sufficient numbers of acquisition and contract officers to oversee the money flowing through the system, to make sure that it is well spent. Earl Devaney, who was named the chair of the Recovery Transparency and Accountability Board earlier this week, expressed similar sentiments:…

Transition watch: Third time's a charm?

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President Barack Obama today nominated former Washington Gov. Gary Locke as Commerce secretary. Obama said he’s grateful that the two-term governor, the nation’s first of Chinese descent, has “agreed to leave one Washington for another.” He said the Commerce Department will play a vital role in helping carry out the administration’s economic recovery policies. Gary will be a trusted voice in my cabinet, a tireless advocate for our economic competitiveness, and an influential ambassador for American industry who will help us do everything we can – especially now – to promote it around the world. Of course, Locke wasn’t Obama’s first…

Green products guide

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With pressure mounting to purchase environmentally friendly products, sorting through the various federal programs to determine whether there are specific products identified that meet environmental standards can be daunting. After all, federal agencies are rating scores of products — everything from awards and bed linens to vending machines and water coolers — for recycled and biobased content, energy and water savings and absence of environmentally harmful chemicals or gases. Agencies are required to buy environmentally preferable products, but finding out whether green alternatives exist for products being purchased is often a time- consuming and frustrating exercise. Now there is a tool…

Obama promises budget reform, no earmarks

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Days before he presents his first budget, President Barack Obama Tuesday night pledged to restore accountability to the budgeting process and cut outdated programs. “This budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules — and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price,” Obama told a joint session of Congress. He added that his proposed 2010 budget will would end no-bid contracts in Iraq, as well as…

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