Recently, the General Services Administration (GSA) spent about $800,000 on a party for its employees.

The Obama-appointed management has since resigned, but I am really ticked off.  Please let me explain.

During the Reagan era, I was one of those dread “beltway bandits” who act as consultants to the Federal Government.  I managed the performance of several “task orders” under GSA contracts:  doing things Federal employees couldn’t do, or wished to do.  Not a single “task order” paid us more than what GSA spent on a weekend party, although we oft worked for  months.

For the US Navy, I and my team saved the Nation several $millions in procurement costs.  A simple example:  under competitive bidding, a tugboat firm that drags the USS Constitution around New York Harbor for a few days during Navy Days or the Tall Ships exhibition once charged our Government only $2.82 for the privilege.  Of course, they made up the fee in free advertising.

For the Social Security Administration (SSA), one of my teams designed a system to recover what was then over $17 billion in “over-payments” … the cumulative amounts of what SSA had then paid to people who did not deserve those benefits.


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What ticks me off about GSA is that, back in those days, I had to live on a $51/day per diem when I visited New York City on Government business.  Back then, my far-off-Broadway Howard Johnsons cost $49/night (because our GSA exemption forgave us local taxes); a bagel and coffee in the hotel cost $9 but I could get eggs, bacon, and hash-browns at a local Greek diner for about $4. My “view” of the New York skyline included the theater across the street, featuring a movie on its billboard entitled Hot Nights and Wet Shorts.  I couldn’t afford to see the undoubtedly award-winning film.

GSA contract rules say “keep receipts” … if you spend less than per diem, you only get what you spend; if you spend more than per diem, you still get the lesser amount.  Makes it impossible to eat at McDonalds for days so you can go to Lutèce once.

Once again, a bunch of Federal employees enjoyed a fabulous experience at taxpayers’ expense.  It would be nice if they followed the same rules they apply to ordinary working stiffs.

PS:  Wouldn’t it be nice if Government Agencies and even Congress scheduled their undoubtedly necessary conferences in the most blighted American communities to help the local economies?