The Washington Post

GSA conferences: the thrill is gone?

(Jill Torrance/GETTY IMAGES)

But don’t let that stop you from a lovely trip to the Alamo! Yes, GSA’s annual training and expo conference is starting Tuesday in historic San Antonio.

Unfortunately, this looks to be a significantly scaled-down affair, per instructions of acting GSA chief Dan Tangherlini. There was even talk of canceling altogether, we were told, but the late charges would have been prohibitive, more than $3 million. (GSA has already canceled 35 gatherings that were scheduled for the end of the year.)

About 6,000 people from various federal, state and local agencies and vendors are expected, about 1,000 fewer than last year’s expo. Of that total, while 800 GSA folks had been scheduled to go, we were told, that was cut to 357 — compared to 940 staffers who went to San Diego.

Various receptions — including an ice cream social — a band and all swag, normally paid for by vendors anyway, also were canceled.

Instead, you’ll get sessions on “acquisition, green solutions and technology,” including one NoDoz special entitled: “Demystifying the contracting process.”

The schedule also warns of boxed lunches every day. And unlike the fine times in Vegas, there’s no magician, no mind-reader, not even a lousy face-painter.

While Vegas cost $823,000 for 300 staff, this one will cost $600,000 for 357 staff. Add another $400,000 in expenses — booths, website, printed materials — and total cost to host 6,000 people for three days, is about $1 million.

Even scaled back, remember, the training sessions end at 3:45 p.m, offering plenty of time to tour the town and party on your own.

Temps will be in the mid-to-upper 80s, so dress comfortably when you go on the lovely River Walk and especially on your trip to the Alamo.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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