The incredible imploding agency

Wednesday - 9/5/2012, 2:00am EDT

If you want to ruin a party planner's day (and who doesn't?) just drop the letters G-S-A into the conversation. Then watch them turn white, purple and then fade from view.

By now many, if not most, news-consuming Americans know what GSA is.

If you are a post-Labor Day tourist from Mars, GSA stands for the General Services Administration. With 12,000-plus employees, GSA is larger than the Marine Mammal Commission and smaller than the Defense Department or the U.S. Postal Service.

GSA is not as well-known as the IRS or the CIA. But it is getting there.

The reason for its popularity (notoriety), as one wit put it, is that, "If GSA didn't have bad luck, it wouldn't have any luck at all." GSA has been in the news before. But thanks in part to the 24/7 news cycle, the recession and a strong anti-government mood, it has become the poster child (right or wrong) for everything that is wrong with the government. Revelations about over-the-top meetings and conferences, from the Potomac to the Nevada desert, have given GSA repeated black eyes. An administrator had to resign — after firing some top staffers — and other officials have taken sudden, and in some cases early, retirement.

The stories of costly parties held at luxurious venues with absurd party favors (a couple of thousand drumsticks for a team-building exercise?) have frosted citizens and politicians alike. Some are genuinely irate. Others are probably secretly delighted that GSA's self-inflicted wounds help feed the beat- the-bureaucrat beast.

The latest GSA flap involves GSA's aggressive Office of the Inspector General. Federal News Radio's Jason Miller broke the story yesterday and it reads like a thriller set in the shadow of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry.

Today at 10 a.m., on our Your Turn radio show, we'll talk with Jason Miller about the late night Aug. 1 confrontation between an IG agent and the top organizer of the GSA conference.

At 10:30 a.m., Federal Times senior writer Steve Losey and reporter Andy Medici will bring us up to speed on the 2013 on again-off- again-federal pay raise, the latest on the impact of sequestration and on some GSA-like conference spending at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at mcausey@federalnewsradio.com or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

The tiny dot above the lowercase "j" and "i" is called a tittle. The term applies to any small mark used in writing and printing.


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Conference investigation leaves some questioning GSA IG's aggressive tactics
The General Services Administration's inspector general investigated the agency's recent SmartPay Training Conference and found no wrongdoing or elaborate spending. But the approach taken by the GSA inspector has left some at the agency uneasy. According to a draft memo obtained by Federal News Radio, tactics used by the investigator included a late night awakening and interrogation of the GSA executive in charge of the conference.

Dem. platform says Obama will continue 'remaking' government
Both the Republican and Democratic parties say they want to update the federal government and bring it into the 21st century. But, according to the official party platforms that have been unveiled over the past week, they have different visions of what exactly that means.

OMB touts $4B in efficiency savings
Agencies have saved more than $4 billion during the first two quarters of fiscal 2012 as part of President Barack Obama's efficiency initiative.

Why does Social Security need 174,000 bullets?
It didn't take long for the Internet to start buzzing with conspiracy theories after the Social Security Administration posted a notice that it was purchasing 174,000 hollow-point bullets. Why is the agency that provides benefits to retirees, disabled workers, widows and children stockpiling ammunition? Whom are they going to use it on?