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Air Force: NSPS transition had its bumps

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The Defense Department has moved roughly 172,000 employees back into the General Schedule from the National Security Personnel System, but the transition had its share of rough patches. According to a Dec. 21 release from the Air Force Space Command — which had to quickly move 3,000 employees back go GS by Sept. 30 — some employees were placed in the wrong GS grades.

The Air Force primarily had problems matching grades and duties because officials used inaccurate or incomplete data. But the Air Force also was under the gun to act fast — employees were shifted in four phases between July and September, and most transitions took place Sept. 12 — which contributed to the errors.

“The rapid transition resulted in errors that may have been prevented had more time been given to accurately transition employees,” human resources specialist Siobhan Berry said in the release.

The Air Force has already fixed some mistakes, but must conduct more in-depth position reviews to correct others.

We’re looking further into this, but we’d also like to hear from our readers who have been switched out of NSPS. How did the process work for you? Were you placed in the wrong grade? Have they fixed any problems, or are you still waiting for your pay and grade to be straightened out?

E-mail me at slosey@federaltimes.com if you’d like to talk. If you’d prefer to speak anonymously, that’s OK too.

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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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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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WH announces VA nominees

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The White House announced six more political appointees Tuesday, including three for the Veterans Affairs Department.

  • Roger Baker, nominee for assistant secretary for information and technology, Veterans Affairs. Baker is the former president and chief executive office of Dataline, a technology company in Norfolk, Va. He also is a former chief information officer of the Commerce Department and served on President Barack Obama’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications policy group during his 2008 presidential campaign.
  • William Gunn, nominee for general counsel, VA. He represents military members and veterans in his Northern Virginia law practice. He retired in 2005 from the Air Force, where he was a colonel in the JAG corps.
  • John U. Sepúlveda, nominee for assistant secretary of human resources, VA. He is a former deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management, appointed in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton.
  • Anne Castle, nominee for assistant secretary for water and science, Interior Department. She is a partner at Holland & Hart in Denver, where she practices water rights and water quality law.
  • Mathy Stanislaus, nominee for assistant administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Environmental Protection Agency. He is an environmental lawyer and chemical engineer and champions revelopment of brownfield sites.
  • Jo-Ellen Darcy, nominee for assistant secretary of the Army (Civil Works), Defense Department. She is the senior environmental adviser for the Senate Finance Committee.

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Senate committee to vote on Berry Wednesday

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The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote on John Berry to be the next Office of Personnel Management director tomorrow afternoon. Berry, who received few tough questions in his confirmation hearing last week, is expected to be confirmed.

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Deputy EPA administrator nominee is out

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Jon Cannon, President Barack Obama’s nominee for deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday afternoon.

And in case you’re wondering, it’s not over unpaid taxes, an issue which has befallen a handful of Obama’s other nominees.

Cannon, an environmental law professor at the University of Virginia, said he withdrew because he once served on the board of a nonprofit group currently under investigation.

It has come to my attention that America’s Clean Water Foundation, where I once served on the board of directors, has become the subject of scrutiny. While my service on the board of that now-dissolved organization is not the subject of the scrutiny, I believe the energy and environmental challenges facing our nation are too great to delay confirmation for this position, and I do not wish to present any distraction to the agency.”

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee had scheduled a confirmation hearing for Cannon for Thursday.

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No Sanjay Gupta in Obama administration

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Television personality and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta has pulled his name from consideration for surgeon general, according to a statement by CNN.

Gupta appears frequently on CNN as a commentator on medical and health issues. CNN U.S. President Jon Klein said Gupta made his decision to spend more time on his medical career and CNN career, according to a statement on CNN’s Web site.

Though a distinguished Atlanta neurosurgeon and professor, Gupta is best known to most Americans as a prolific television commentator. However, he served as an adviser to the Clinton White House, helping craft health care speeches and policy for Hillary Clinton. He was first rumored for the surgeon general post in January, with CNN all but confirming he’d been selected.

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Specter will support Holder for AG

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Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Arlen Specter said Tuesday afternoon he’ll vote for attorney general-designate Eric Holder when the committee meets Wednesday to consider his nomination.

Specter initially objected to the quick scheduling of Holder’s confirmation just weeks after his appointment by President Barack Obama, saying it did not leave enough time to investigate Holder’s background, including his involvement in the pardon of Marc Rich and his decision not to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate then-Vice President Al Gore’s fund-raising activities for the 1996 presidential campaign.

Specter, R-Penn., said Tuesday that Holder has “excellent qualifications” and provided answers to his “very serious questions” regarding Rich and the fund-raising investigation during a private meeting last Thursday.

It is necessary to ask pointed questions of all nominees. Unlike other Cabinet officials, the attorney general does more than carry out the president’s policies. The attorney general has an independent duty to the American people to uphold the rule of law.”

Specter’s affirmative vote for Holder removes one of the major obstacles to Holder’s confirmation, and the Senate Judiciary Commitee will vote on Holder’s nomination at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Should the committee approve Holder’s nomination, as is now expected, the full Senate could vote on his confirmation later Wednesday afternoon.

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Ishimaru takes the reins at EEOC

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President Obama has appointed Stuart Ishimaru to be acting chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the commission said today. Ishimaru replaces Naomi Earp as chairman.

In the statement announcing the appointment, the EEOC said Ishimaru’s more than five-year tenure has been marked by a focus on “large, systemic cases and in reinvigorating the agency’s work on race discrimination issues. He also played an instrumental role in the EEOC’s adoption of groundbreaking guidance on gender discrimination against workers with caregiving responsibilities.”

Ishimaru called the appointment “a high honor and quite humbling:”

The Obama administration brings new promise and possibilities to the EEOC. To succeed in our mission, we need to rethink the fundamental question of how well the commission works to ensure equal employment opportunities for all individuals.

Fellow commissioner Christine Griffin was also named acting vice chairwoman of the EEOC.

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