Federal Times Blogs

Federal Protective Service having trouble with its move to NPPD

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The Federal Protective Service is having problems moving all of its services from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to its new home at the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security.

Despite an original deadline of Oct. 2010, FPS has only transferred 13 of 18 support services, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Aug. 15.

As the report details:

 For example, while functions such as human capital and budget formulation have been transferred, information technology (IT) services, business continuity and emergency preparedness, facilities, personnel security, and equal employment opportunity have not…DHS also developed a detailed schedule to manage the transfer of IT services, as called for in the transition plan. However, GAO’s analysis of the schedule found that it did not reflect GAO’s best practices for scheduling such as capturing, sequencing, and assigning resources to all activities necessary to accomplish the work.

The GAO said DHS had estimated it would cost $6.2 million to complete the IT transition, but that the estimate was based on incomplete data and not on best practices. GAO recommended better cost-estimation practices and more complete and accurate data about the ongoing transfer to NPPD.

EEOC nominees on secret hold

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A senator has placed a secret hold on the confirmation of a gay woman and other nominees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, apparently in violation of a 2007 law that cracked down on such anonymous holds, Keen News Service reports.

Many conservative groups have oppposed the nomination of Georgetown University law professor Chai Feldblum as an EEOC commissioner because she is gay. Nevertheless, Feldblum’s nomination was reported out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in December along with three other EEOC nominations, clearing the way for a vote by the full Senate.

Since then, however, an unnamed senator has blocked all of the EEOC nominations from going forward. The Keen News Service reports that there is no mention of the hold in the Congressional Record, nor has any senator made a public statement about the hold. Those actions are required for any holds under a 2007 law that was intended to make it harder for lawmakers to put anonymous holds on presidential nominees.

Three of the EEOC’s five commissioner positions, including the chairman, and the general counsel post are being held up by the anonymous action.

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GSA’s Johnson names three regional directors

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Martha Johnson is taking more action at the General Services Administration.

A day after she rearranged the deck chairs to put more emphasis on green building programs, the newly confirmed GSA administrator filled three political posts.

Johnson named permanent appointees to head three of GSA’s regional offices:

  • Jason Klumb as regional administrator of the Heartland Region, which includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. Klumb, who at age 24 was one of the youngest elected leaders in the Missouri House of Representatives, also is a major in the Army National Guard Judge Advocate General Corps.
  • George Northcroft as regional administrator of the Northwest Region, which covers Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Northcroft most recently headed up economic development and business relations for Seattle and the rest of Washington’s King County, which is the 14th most populous county in the nation.
  • Shyam Reddy as regional administrator of the Southeast Region, which encompasses Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Reddy was a partner at the Atlanta law firm Kilpatrick Stockton, where he led negotiations involving complex financial, employment, tax, and structuring issues.

Today’s announcements bring the number of permanent regional administrators to five; Johnson has six more posts to fill.


The broken appointment process

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Update: Included a clarification below. The story about Sen. Bond’s hold on Martha Johnson’s nomination has changed; he’s now reportedly delaying the nomination because he wants the government to approve a $175 million federal office building in Kansas City, according to the Kansas City Star.

Original post: The New York Times has a story this morning about the political appointment process, pointing out that just 43 percent of the Obama administration’s senior political positions have been filled:

While career employees or holdovers fill many posts on a temporary basis, Mr. Obama does not have his own people enacting programs central to his mission. He is trying to fix the financial markets but does not have an assistant treasury secretary for financial markets. He is spending more money on transportation than anyone since Dwight D. Eisenhower but does not have his own inspector general watching how the dollars are used. He is fighting two wars but does not have an Army secretary.

I think it’s fair to say this has less to do with anything the Obama administration is (or is not) doing, and more to do with institutional dysfunction in the Senate and the sheer number of political jobs. Obama has, in fact, nominated an Army secretary; he named John McHugh to the post back in June. Senators have delayed his confirmation. His nominee for GSA administrator, Martha Johnson, is reportedly being delayed in the Senate because Sen. Kit Bond wants a federal building approved in Kansas City.

And, as the Times notes, he has some 500 senior policymaking posts to fill — not including thousands of other Schedule C jobs, ambassadorships and the like.

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Senate approves dozens of nominees

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Just before leaving for its August recess Friday, the Senate cleared more than six dozen of President Barack Obama’s nominees, including multiple assistant secretaries and ambassadors.

But most notable may be the lack of several confirmation votes of particular interest to federal employees. The nomination of Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has been held up for months over concerns over ideas in his academic writings. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., filed cloture on Sunstein’s nomination, setting up a final vote on confirmation when the Senate returns Sept. 8.

The Senate also took no action on the nomination of Martha Johnson as administrator of the General Services Administration. Her nomination is not controversial, and the delay has frustrated federal workforce leaders such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The Senate did clear several notable nominations, including Alejandro Mayorkas as director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services, Francis Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health and Robert Abbey as director of the Bureau of Land Management.

The full list of confirmed agency nominees, in alphabetical order:

  • Robert Adler, a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission;
  • Christopher Bertram, assistant secretary of Transportation;
  • Patricia Cahill, member of the board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting;
  • Julia Clark, general counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority;
  • Kevin Cochran, administrator of U.S. Fire Administration;
  • Ernest DuBester, member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority;
  • Daniel Elliott, member of the Surface Transportation Board;
  • Joan Evans, assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs;
  • Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of State for near-Eastern affairs;
  • Colin Fulton, assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Alexander Garza, assistant secretary and chief medical officer for the Homeland Security Department;
  • Christopher Hart, member of the National Transportation Safety Board;
  • Dennis Hightower, deputy secretary of Commerce;
  • Craig Hooks, assistant administrator of the EPA;
  • Raymond Jefferson, assistant secretary of Labor for veterans’ employment and training;
  • Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of State for oceans, international environmental and scientific affairs
  • David J. Kappos, undersecretary for Commerce for intellectual property and director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
  • Susan Kurland, assistant secretary of Transportation;
  • Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts;
  • James Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities;
  • Wilma Lewis, assistant secretary of the Interior;
  • James Markowsky, assistant secretary of Energy for fossil energy;
  • A. Thomas McLellan, deputy director of the National Drug Control Policy;
  • Warren Miller, assistant secretary of Energy for nuclear energy;
  • Cranston Mitchell, a commissioner of the U.S. Parole Commission;
  • Anne Northup, a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission;
  • Maria Otero, undersecretary of State;
  • Christopher Schroeder, assistant attorney general;
  • Aaron Williams, director of the Peace Corps.

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Obama names his pick for surgeon general

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Dr. Regina Benjamin, an Alabama physician, speaks after President Barack Obama announced her nomination for surgeon general.

Dr. Regina Benjamin, an Alabama physician, speaks after President Barack Obama announced her nomination for surgeon general Monday in the Rose Garden. AP photo

Dr. Regina Benjamin, a family practice doctor who works with the rural poor in Alabama, is President Barack Obama’s choice for surgeon general, Obama said Monday.

Obama praised Benjamin’s commitment to health care and to providing access to care for those who can’t afford insurance. She is the founder of the Bayou Le Batre Rural Health Clinic in Bayou La Batre, Ala., a fishing village, and has served as its chief exective officer since is founding in 1990.

Benjamin has rebuilt the clinic several times, including after it sustain heavy damages by Hurricane Georges in 1998 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Benjamin, 52, received her bachelor’s degree in 1979 from Xavier University of Louisiana, attended Morehouse School of Medicine from 1980 to 1982, and earned her doctor of medicine degree in 1984 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Her medical schooling was paid for by the National Health Service Corps, a federal program where medical students pledge to work in underserved areas in exchange for paid tuition, earning one year of free tuition for ever year of service.

Atlanta neurosurgeon and CNN correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta was rumored earlier this year to be Obama’s first choice for surgeon general, but Gupta pulled his name from consideration, citing his desire to spend more time on his current work.

Benjamin’s nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

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OMB welcomes Zients

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The nation has its first chief performance officer.

The Senate confirmed Jeffrey Zients‘ nomination Friday. Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag welcomed his new deputy for management with this blog post.

Now we wait to see what changes Zients will bring to federal performance management. He’s had a successful track record imbuing positive performance into private sector companies through his work at the Corporate Executive Board Company and the Advisory Board Company.

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More nominations head to Senate floor

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The Senate could vote this week on more of President Barack Obama’s nominees.

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee approved two nominations by voice vote Monday: W. Craig Fugate for Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator and John Morton for assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Senate may vote this week on their nominations, which aren’t controversial. No vote has been scheduled.

Meanwhile, senators are debating the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for secretary of Health and Human Services Tuesday, with a vote expected later in the day. The vote on her nomination has been delayed almost three weeks, as some Republicans have taken issue with her pro-choice stance and her acceptance of campaign contributions from a Kansas doctor who performs late-term abortions.

She must receive at least 60 votes for her nomination to pass, part of a compromise reached by Senate Democrats and Republicans late last week. She’s expected to have the needed number of votes, but not by much.

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Obama's Cabinet nearly complete

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The Senate Finance Committee voted 15-8 in favor of Kathleen Sebelius for Health and Human Services secretary, clearing the way to complete President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

Sebelius’ nomination now goes to the full Senate for a vote, the date of which hasn’t yet been announced. Sebelius had a confirmation hearing before the Finance Committee two weeks ago, but Republicans wary with her stances on abortion and Obama’s health care reforms delayed a vote on her nomination until after Congress returned from a two-week recess.

Republican senators Pat Roberts, from Sebelius’ home state of Kansas, and Maine’s Olympia Snowe voted in favor of Sebelius.

Sebelius, currently governor of Kansas, was Obama’s second choice to lead HHS. His first choice, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, stepped down in February after he acknowledged owing more than $140,000 in back taxes for use of a car and driver.

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Sunstein nominated to head OIRA (for real, this time)

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Last month I asked “Where’s Cass?” — Cass being Cass Sunstein, the president’s supposed pick to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The Obama transition team announced that it would nominate him in January, but the nomination wasn’t made official.

Not until today, at least: The president sent Sunstein’s nomination to the Senate. (You can read the profile I wrote of Sunstein in January here.)

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