I first heard about the GSA conference problems on In Depth with Francis Rose on Federal News Radio yesterday afternoon (4/2/12) after they picked up the Washington Post report (links for both below).
There will be much made of the GSA conference that led to the resignation of Martha Johnson and two others regarding this, and doubtless there will be Congressional hearings that will cost much more than the $823,000 that the conference cost. We cannot deny congressmen a chance to appear fically responsible during an election year....
But cost is not the entire issue: good management is the issue.
There are some serious issues with this conference, but one fact needs to be pointed out clearly. Those responsible for this were appointees, not career Feds. Apprently these appointees were warned several times to "tone down" the event by career Feds, whose advice was ignored.
It has long been my contention that there are too many appointees, political payoff jobs. Too often (as seems to be the case here), they come in with little or no grasp of how things are done, and worse, they take no time to learn and ignore those under them when they try to point things out.
Collateral damage here may involve events (conferences, seminars, briefings, and more) hosted by the government or attended by government employees and executives. While I hope this does not occur, I have seen similar situations with broad collateral damage. I would wager that conference and event planning professionals inside GSA were dropping hints and stronger messages along the way of this fiasco. I will also wager that those who were driving this event were oblivious to any and all advice regarding how government events need to happen.
There are several excellent firms that produce goverment events agencies, and in hindsight, one of these should have been used. Companies like the Federal Business Council, Fedinsider and others could produce an excellent event within budget and within all ethical parameters.
It is too bad that Martha Johnson suffered from the fallout here, as all my sources indicate she was a top-notch appointee.
Unfortunately, she is now collateral damage.
Washington Post story:
Federal News Radio story
Federal News Radio analysis
4/19/12 ADDITION - Mr Neely was a career and he was largely responsible for these problems, so my initial assessment was off the mark.