The Senate has confirmed 89 of President Obama's judicial appointees in 2014 – a record number of confirmations in the post-election lame duck session, according to analysis from the Brookings Institution. His judicial confirmation rate now exceeds that of previous two-term presidents Bush and Clinton.
The FBI issued a statement Dec. 19 attributing the widely-publicized and costly cyber intrusion at Sony Pictures to North Korean-backed hackers. The agency's four-week investigation definitively found "the North Korean government is responsible for these actions," said an agency press release.
The House narrowly passed a fiscal 2015 appropriations bill Thursday night paving the way for Senate approval and avoiding a government shutdown. The $1.1 trillion fiscal 2015 bill (H.R. 83) would fund every government agency with the exception of DHS through Sept. 30. That number includes $521 billion for defense functions of several agencies and $492 billion for non-defense agency functions.
President Obama issued a series of directives Tuesday calling on agency managers to develop a more diverse set of skills as agency executives begin to retire in greater numbers.
President Obama formally granted federal employees an extra holiday on Dec. 26 in an executive order issued Dec. 5. "All executive branch departments and agencies of the federal government shall be closed and their employees excused from duty on Friday, Dec. 26, 2014, the day after Christmas Day," the executive order says.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be leaving his post once a successor is nominated and confirmed, a Nov. 24 Defense Department news release says. Obama praised Hagel's service and noted he became the head of the DoD at a particularly difficult time. "When I asked Chuck to serve as secretary of defense, we were entering a significant period of transition," Obama said in the news release.
An audit of the federal government's open data efforts has produced conflicting results. Where there should be URLs that link to downloadable datasets, agencies sometimes have a short message or an identifier for a non-web resource, such as people's computers and internal servers, the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit dedicate to government transparency, said in an Oct. 29 blog post.
President Obama renewed his commitment to open government by laying out a new set of initiatives that will call on the U.S. Digital Service to make it easier for citizens to engage with the government, a Sept. 24 Open Government Partnership action plan says.
Many of President Obama's nominees were left in limbo as the Senate left Washington to hit the campaign trail as November elections near. USAID has been waiting the longest. The agency has gone without an inspector general for three years now. Michael Carroll was nominated back in July 2013 and is still awaiting a hearing.
With time running out before the fiscal year ends, the House Wednesday night overwhelmingly approved a stop-gap measure to fund the government through Dec. 11 once the new fiscal years starts Oct. 1. Under the bill (H.J.Res.124), which passed by a vote of 319-108, the government would be funding at fiscal 2014 levels and doesn't address federal employee pay raises. That paves the way for President Obama's authorization of a 1 percent pay raise for feds.