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Presidential Pardon: Workers Get Christmas Eve Off

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By Stephen Barr
Friday, December 7, 2007

It's an early holiday gift for most federal employees.

President Bush yesterday issued an executive order closing the federal government on Christmas Eve, a Monday.

Federal employees are "excused from duty" that day, except for those employees who agencies determine should be at work "for reasons of national security or defense or other public need," the order says.

"President Bush acknowledges the important contributions America's federal employees make each day to ensure the success and security of our nation," Linda M. Springer, the director of the Office of Personnel Management and Bush's chief civil service adviser, said in a statement. "So in the spirit of the season, President Bush is making it possible for these dedicated Americans to spend this precious four-day period with family and friends."

E-mails have whizzed across the government in recent days as employees tried to figure out whether Bush would grant them a day off on Christmas Eve, as he did in 2001, when Dec. 24 also fell on a Monday. The topic even popped up Wednesday on Federal Diary Live, a discussion session on http://washingtonpost.com.

The extra holiday probably will not hurt productivity in most federal offices, because many employees schedule time off from work in the holiday season. Bush's order may spill over to some nonprofit organizations and companies that take their cue from the government on when to open and close.

But many federal employees will be at work during the holidays, including the weekends before and after Christmas. They are classified as essential or emergency employees, and they help staff command centers at the departments of Defense and Homeland Security and other agencies.

The OPM said the executive order does not apply to Postal Service employees, in part because the agency operates independently of the civil service and because mail carriers will be putting in long hours delivering holiday cards and packages on the 24th.

Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon and Carter also gave employees the entire day off when Christmas Eve landed on a Monday. Ronald Reagan approved three hours of excused absence, and George Bush the Elder gave employees a half-day holiday in 1990.

Federal Jobs Go Google

The government is opening up a large part of its jobs database to major search engines to make it easier for more Americans to look for employment with Uncle Sam.

People interested in federal employment can type in job titles on Google and see links to federal job openings alongside similar positions being offered by companies and nonprofit organizations.

The Office of Personnel Management operates USAJobs, a Web portal that attracts about 10 million visitors each month who can sort through about 60,000 announcements posted by federal agencies. More than 2 million Americans have filed their r¿sum¿s on USAJobs.

But OPM officials said that many college students and others are not aware of the federal Web portal, and that providing electronic feeds of the job listings to major search engines will make it easier for Americans to search and apply for work in the government.

"Those that are so good at surfing the Net, this is going to catch some of those people," said Kay Ely, an associate director at OPM.

Many government jobs are closed to applicants from outside the civil service because of requirements for certain types of experience or to provide promotions for career staff. The job advertisements fed by OPM to the search engines will only include job positions open to the public, which should be 35,000 to 40,000 a month, said Steve Connelly, program director for USAJobs.

OPM has partnered with Google on the project's launch, and officials hope to have a fully operational system in place in January and to sign up other search engines.

Retirements

Joseph D. O'Connell Jr., director of public affairs at the International Broadcasting Bureau, will retire Dec. 22 after more than 40 years of federal service.

O'Connell served as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1967, as a Foreign Service officer in Brazil and Washington from 1970 to 1979 and, since 1989, has been the spokesman for the Voice of America, a part of the broadcasting bureau. On Dec. 4, he was presented with the bureau's highest award, the Distinguished Honor Award.

Annette Hanopole, a grants management officer and branch chief at the National Institutes of Health, will retire Jan. 3 after 32 years of federal service.

Talk Shows

Art Gordon, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and Jon Adler, the group's executive vice president, will be the guests on "FedTalk" at 11 a.m. today on http://federalnewsradio.com and WFED radio (1050 AM).

Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association, will be the guest on the IBM "Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

Stephen Barr's e-mail address isbarrs@washpost.com.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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