The Washington Post

GSA scandal makes ‘conference’ a dirty word

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, left, may have taken notes on the scandal involving former GSA chief Martha Johnson, right. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Thanks to the clowning and magic tricks by the General Service Administration at a posh Las Vegas resort (the one that led to the resignation this week of the agency’s chief and the ouster of four officials involved in planning the ritzy event) the word may now be verboten among the agencies.

For example, yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security boasted of its successful “2012 National Fusion Center Training Event.” A “training event” sounds like serious business. Not to be confused with a “conference,” which, thanks to the GSA, now conjures up images of conga lines and taxpayer-funded decadence.

Funny, though, that the very same DHS event held last year was billed as the “National Fusion Center Conference.”

Oh, what a difference a year makes.

And as a helpful guide to government conference ... oops, scratch that ... event planners, we offer these synonyms so that you might label your next gathering appropriately:

“Annual meeting” — Using the word “annual” conveys a sense that it’s just a routine event. Nothing to see here, people ...

“Seminar” — Makes us think of lecture halls and trying to stay awake. So boring, no one will notice.

“Symposium” — Implies lots of deep thoughts and has a certain air of gravitas about it.

“Forum” — Sounds Greek, which makes us think of togas, which makes us think of “Animal House.”

Well, maybe avoid “forum,” too.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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