Government Spending

Atlanta Invaded by Army of Wine-Stained Short-Sleeved Dress Shirts

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ABC News sent an undercover reporter to the month-long bender (plus, like, some meetings and stuff) the Federal Aviation Administration threw for 3,600 of its managers at the four-diamond Omni Hotel in Atlanta. The conference was allegedly to train air traffic control managers how to implement a new contract. Problem is, the contract actually went into effect three months earlier. FAA officials told the ABC they didn't think the new contract would be implemented so soon and had already scheduled the conference for December, so they went ahead with the event anyway.

Salacious, would-be-hilarious-if-they-weren't-spending-my-money excerpts:

  • One FAA manager told an ABC News undercover reporter, "Anytime you get a bunch of FAA guys together, it is nothing but a party." Another said, "It beats being at work."
  • At the end of one day of meetings, an FAA manager said he and others were about to head out "to dance on tables shortly." He boasted he was "almost arrested" for being drunk and "dancing on the tables" at the last such FAA managers gathering in St. Louis in 2006.
  • Another conference attendee asked a female ABC News undercover reporter if she was a "hooker" because "I was ready to reach for my wallet."
  • FAA manager Steve Lewis of Phoenix said he thought the meetings and an evening buffet cocktail party would help provide "a more harmonious workplace."

Sounds like the bitchin'est federal party since the TSA spent half a million to celebrate its two-year anniversary (and hand out "lifetime achievement awards"!) at D.C.'s Grand Hyatt back in 2004.

Good times, man. Good times.

Some fun with numbers:

  • Federal budget deficit for 2009: $1.9 trillion.
  • Average amount of money each U.S. household pays in federal income taxes: $17,388 (as of 2004).
  • Approximate number of years' worth of income tax that household would have to pay to underwrite the FAA party in Atlanta: 288.
  • Amount of money the FAA has asked from taxpayers to upgrade it's 40-year-old air traffic control equipment: $22 billion.

Finally, if you've ever wondered (fantacized?) what happens when a gaggle of randy GS-10s take off their glasses, put down their styli, and start shooting Jaeger, well, ABC has the video.

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  1. Hey, it’s free money, right? PAAAARTAAYYY!!!

    TOGA! TOGA!

  2. Midget strippers dance on tables shortly.

  3. The conference as a whole might be weasteful (The report doesn’t give enough info on it to say for sure). But people drinking/partying on their own time, after a conference is done for the day really isn’t a big deal.

    1. It is a big deal when you work for the government. There is the Employee Standards of Conduct which covers how an employee is expected to act while in a training status–even when they are on their own time. There were at least 6 violations of this standard by some at this training event. Remember this is not a private industry this is the Government of the United States and what we do on our own time reflects on the image of the government.

  4. Just another illustration that those who work in government don’t give a damn about how or what they spend OUR money on. I despise pubic sector employees. They are nothing but parasites.

    1. “Pubic sector employees?” Well—they do have a lot in common with lice and crabs, don’t they? *grin*

  5. And what do those 3,600 managers make every year? I recently read that the Department of Transportation has about 1,700 people who make $170K+ a year (not counting benefits and pension).

  6. Trust me, this is the tip of the iceberg. These parties for air traffic control managers have been going on for YEARS.

  7. “Another conference attendee asked a female ABC News undercover reporter if she was a “hooker” because “I was ready to reach for my wallet.”

    That is such a great line. I need to use that and see the faces it gets.

  8. Pfft. All professional conventions and conferences are like this. I go to game development conferences to get drunk with other designers, not to go to the events and seminars.

    (In my industry, at least, the really useful information always comes out when everyone’s drunk and willing to spill the beans on their projects. Dunno how that would apply to the FAA.)

    1. Yes, I would say of my, say 10 worst hangovers a solid 40% to 50% were conferences or other work-related events.

    2. Such remarks could probably be heard at any Libertarian convention, too.

  9. I wish ABC News would go undercover as White House Press Corps reporters and actually aggressively challenge Gibbs on the president’s blatant falsehoods. Those are costing me a little more than the FAA’s various soirees. But baby steps, I guess.

  10. Finally, if you’ve ever wondered (fantacized?) what happens when a gaggle of randy GS-10s take off their glasses, put down their styli, and start shooting Jaeger

    Getting all geeky-technical here, but the FAA is under a separate pay system, so they don’t have GS-10’s.

    They do have killer parties though.

    1. GS-10s are not managers in any government organization. It is normally a GS-14 to be a manager. GS-10s do the real work and the managers party apparently. And although FAA is under a pay for performance plan, the managers pay would be equal to a GS014 which you can find at the OPM.gov site on the pay scales.

  11. After reading through the whole article, I’m not sure this is a big deal. The managers are learning about a new contract. Sure, it’s been in effect already, but that doesn’t mean that managment has been fully briefed on the details. After their training, they hit the bars, spending their own money.

    What’s the big deal about that?

    1. In my company we use email for stuff like this.

  12. Considering how boring the FAA meetings probably are, I’d imagine its necessary.

    I wouldn’t call 170k/year a huge amount of money for someone to manages more than say… 20 people anyway.

    1. Some manage 200+. Others manage none. Many make the same pay regardless.

    2. Most of FAA’s “Managers” supervise only 4 to 6 employees, tops. In Washington D.C.- I ran the numbers, and 69% of the D.C. FAA employees make 100K or more. SIXTY NINE PERCENT. Those of us FAA worker bees out in the real world, that do the work, don’t make that kind of money, and we don’t get to go to Atlanta to party.

      My sup is over 6 employees, and earns 139K. His sup is over 7 sups, and earns 152K, His sup is a lady who manages 4, and earns 172K. And then there are three more layers of 172Kers above her.

  13. to upgrade it’s 40-year-old air traffic control equipment

    …I’d say something.

  14. When anyone says that this stuff is not a big deal, maybe it should not be, but remember how offended high government officials were when companies like AIG had the temerity to have sales training conferences in posh resorts? Anyone?

  15. Your gGovernment at work….. oh, wait. They weren’t at work

  16. Damn keyboard…. Make that government.

  17. Over the last few years FAA has been promoting less-than-30 year-olds to supervisor positions in air traffic facilities at 150K+ a year. Little to no experience at the actual job they supervise is required. Any Caveman could do it. They do nothing more than shuffle papers, answer phones and surf the internet while at work. The FAA is a rogue agency that is never held accountable, this story is just a small example of FAA abuse of power as well as the total lack of professionalism we see displayed on a daily basis by management at air traffic facilities across the country.

    As the story at ABC mentions, there were 3600 (1200×3) management attendees. There are about 14-15,000 air traffic controllers in the field today. That is a 1-4 management to controller ratio. Total waste of funds, as often the job of the supervisor at facilities is done by a controller anyway (called a controller in charge/CIC). The ratio at one time (before Bush/”W”) was close to 1-10.

    FAA has needed to do some closet-cleaning for a long long time. Maybe this story will help them find their broom.

    1. I was gonna say letting a bunch of high-strung air traffic controller types let their hair down a bit doesn’t bother at all until I read controllers post, fuckin’ fuckers…
      Repubs and demos both keep making government bigger and bigger building on each others “achievements” I don’t see that changing anytime due to the complete and utter stupidity of the average voter. GAAAA!

  18. After their training, they hit the bars, spending their own money.

    Are we sure its their money?

    the Federal Aviation Administration threw for 3,600 of its managers at the four-diamond Omni Hotel in Atlanta.

    The money spent on the poshy hotel was yours.

  19. All professional conventions and conferences are like this.

    Totally. Having worked in hotels for years, I can confirm that this is basically the behavior of any male while traveling on business.

  20. Don’t forget that each attendee can claim up to $81 per day in per diem reimbursement from the FAA. I’m sure that the taxpayer bought a lot of those drinks.

    1. I hate to tell you, but they don’t have to claim reimbursement. The $81 dollars a day is theirs whether they spend it or not. To do with as they chose. Guess you know what he was reaching for his wallet with? LOL It is given to them for what is referred to as M&IE; which stands for meals and incidental expenses.

  21. These 3.600 managers supervise 15,200 workers. That’s 1 supervisor for every 4.2 workers.

  22. I’ve been in that Omni in Atlanta. It’s a four star hotel the same way Top Gun is a four star movie.

  23. A three-week-long conference? TED is how many days? Davos is how many days? Copenhagen lasted how long? Hell, the Allies got Yalta done in a week. Get back to work you shiftless fucks.

  24. As a veteran air traffic controller of 19 years, I would like to shed even more light on this situation. This is not the first management rally/party of this type. In 2006, the Bush Administration compelled the FAA to walk away from contract negotiations and impose their own version of a “contract” on the workforce. They held similar meetings, at great expense, in St. Louis that year. One of my managers who, I admit to their credit, never bought into the party line, told us how they left the conference early because, for lack of better terms, it reminded them of a Nazi party rally from the 1930’s. There were cheers and ovations every time someone came up with a new idea on how to screw the workforce. This supposed “contract” forced draconian, imtimidating work rules upon the work force, froze pay for existing workers, drastially cut pay for newly hired controllers and so on. All the while, managers and supervisors ran wild with intimidation with little or no recourse and received 3 to 4 percent pay raises PER YEAR and bonuses. This led to mass retirements and resignations among the workforce. The FAA’s solution, lower the hiring standards and replace them with workers as young as fresh out of high school, just so they can point to the number of new ‘controllers’ they have hired. They never told the public that these new ‘controllers’ need several years of training to actually become a fully certified controller. It is only by the dedication of those who remain and by the grace of God that we still have the safest, most efficient ATC system in the world. Since the new admistration took over they forced the FAA to actually negotiate a ratifiable contract and in a scathing press release, villified what the previous administration and FAA management did in 2006. That same manager told us that this Atlanta party was a waste of time and money also, as that what they learned there could have been accomplished more efficiently by teleconference or even a dvd or powerpoint presentation.

  25. This is the 2nd time the FAA has held this event, with the first one in 2006. The contract only had,maybe, 20% of the items that were changed. This training could have been done via teleconferencing or via a power point and saved millions of taxpayers dollars. Hank said it was also to help boost morale. These managers are responsible for ruining the morale of the general workforce for the past 3 years and they need their morale raised? This boondoggle was nothing more than pat each other on the back at the expense of the taxpayer. Their excuses are lame and their behavior unexceptable……but then again they have always told us they “lead by example.”

  26. The use of taxpayers funds for this foolishness is inexcusable. However, my morale did get a boost and I laughed my ass off as I watched the ABC broadcast of this news item. One OM here at ZAU said he didn’t go to Atlanta at all. This mis-information was promptly rejected as a fellow FLM said “He was sitting right next to me!” I’ve said it before – you can’t make this stuff up!

  27. Amazing how comments taken out of context, edited for sensationalism, then projected as newsworthy items can fool so many intelligent people. Get a clue, people! This isn’t newsworthy. How much was spent on the training? Did they say how many hours per day of training took place? Did they mention whether or not the FAA paid for the parties or were these individuals using their own money for these activities? Seems to me that the ABUSE is from the press!

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