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Maybe It's Time for 'Help Wanted' Ads

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, March 4, 2009

These are just not great days for the White House personnel folks. The team, already stalled by various setbacks, including chronic and seemingly incurable vetting problems for nominees and potential nominees, has lost two more leading contenders for top-level jobs.

Several days ago, former Federal Aviation Administration chief Jane Garvey, the administration's top choice to be deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation, reluctantly decided not to take the job.

We're told that Garvey, 65, felt honored to have been considered for the post at such a historic moment but had wrestled with personal concerns about accepting the position. She had spent much of her professional career in state and federal service, leaving the FAA six years ago for the private sector.

Garvey, former deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration and director of Boston's Logan International Airport, now works at J.P. Morgan Public Finance, helping cities and towns structure financing for public projects. She also became a director on some boards.

Sources said Garvey had concluded recently that her family financial situation would be too adversely affected by a return to government. The move leaves the administration with no one immediately on tap to replace her, one source said, and it leaves Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood home alone as the only Senate-confirmed Obama appointee there.

Then there's word that Susan F. Tierney, who had been the leading candidate to be deputy secretary of energy, has also dropped from contention. Tierney had served on the Obama transition as team leader for the Energy Department and was a former Massachusetts public utility commissioner.

DISCOURAGING TERMS

So how long a financial downturn is the administration anticipating? President Obama has not put a date on it, saying that this year is going to be tough, but next year might be better. But it would appear that the Treasury Department thinks the Troubled Assets Relief Program, that $700 billion bank bailout, may be around for a while. The department, through the General Services Administration, has signed a lease for four floors of a building at 18th and L streets NW. It's a 10-year lease.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS

And here we thought Obama didn't want Social Security funds invested in the stock market. Well, maybe not. An eagle-eyed former Bush administration official writes that former Treasury secretary John Snow's Web site for the Social Security Information Center (http://www.strengtheningsocialsecurity.gov) -- once headed by former Bush communications guru Mark Pfeifle -- is still alive and kicking.

Log on and jog down memory lane to remember President George W. Bush's spring 2005 "60 Stops in 60 Days" barnstorm to sell personal retirement accounts. Relive former labor secretary Elaine Chao's Aug. 15, 2005, Cleveland trip to celebrate Social Security's 70th anniversary. Surf over to the Spanish-language section for former U.S. treasurer Anna Cabral's Univision.com opinion column "Seguro Social, hay que tomar medidas" (roughly, "Social Security measures must be taken"). Maybe you can calculate how much you might have lost.

But make the trip quick, before Team Obama -- you know, the guys who reinvented Web and Internet communications -- catches on.

RETURN OF TRAVELIN' ROB?

Loop Fans were elated by an Aviation Daily report last week that "former National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Robert Francis is being considered by the Obama Administration to come back and lead the safety board as chairman." We all hope this Loop favorite gets the nod, but caution counsels that we keep the champagne corked. (Both Democratic NTSB members Kitty Higgins and Deborah Hersman are said to under consideration.) Francis, now working in this area as a consultant with Farragut International, keeps up with NTSB activities, monitoring board meetings.

The vice chairmanship he held is a largely ceremonial post, but we had occasion to note that Francis, a career FAA official, was able to circumnavigate the globe at least three times -- one stop was Nepal -- to carry out his duties. And in November 1999, just before the end of his five-year term on the board, he worked in a jaunt to Paris, Brussels and Toulouse on his way to Morocco for a speech.

IT'S OFFICIAL

John Berry, former assistant interior secretary for policy, management and budget, has been tapped by Obama to head the Office of Personnel Management. Berry also had been executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, director of the National Zoo, an aide to Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and acting assistant Treasury secretary for law enforcement. The zoo experience might prove useful.

Obama tapped a longtime pal from his Harvard Law School days, Julius Genachowski, as FCC chairman. Genachowski had been chief counsel at the commission, a law clerk to former D.C. federal appeals judge Abner Mikva, then a clerk to Supreme Court justices William J. Brennan and David A. Souter, and he was later a senior executive at Barry Diller's IAC/InterActive Corp.

Genachowski's move most probably means that the highly regarded Larry Strickling, former chief of the FCC's Common Carrier Bureau, former legal and regulatory executive at Ameritech and more recently a top Obama campaign aide on technology policy issues, will be picked to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, making him Obama's top adviser on telecom and information policy.

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this column.

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