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Issa asks 10 agencies to detail spending on 153 conferences

Aug. 23, 2012 - 11:21AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (Agence France-Presse)

The Defense Department between 2005 and 2011 held 64 conferences more expensive per person than the now infamous $823,000 General Services Administration 2010 conference in Las Vegas, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Nine other agencies held 89 conferences that exceeded that benchmark during the same period, Issa said in a news release Wednesday. Those conferences include 22 at the Social Security Administration, 21 at U.S. Agency for International Development and 15 at the Agriculture Department.

Issa is investigating the conferences because their costs, as reported by the agencies, were greater than the $3,000 spent per person at the GSA conference, which featured mind readers, parties and parody skits. That conference forced the resignation of former GSA administrator Martha Johnson and the firing of top officials.

In an Aug. 22 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Issa asks for more information about the conferences — including all communications about them — and stresses that the conferences might have served legitimate uses.

“It is important to note that we are not prejudging the importance and usefulness of these conferences, instead we seek additional information to enable the committee to determine if expenditures were appropriate and taxpayer dollars were wasted,” Issa said in the letter.

Similar letters were sent to nine other agencies in late July. In addition to SSA, USAID and Agriculture, agencies being investigated are the Education, Interior, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development departments, GSA and the Small Business Administration.

Some of the DoD conferences listed in the letter include:

• The Naval Facilities Engineering Command intern conference in San Diego, June 21 to 22, 2011.

• The Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering Service Command Leadership Conference in Coronado, Calif., Sept. 27 to 28, 2011.

• Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups Symposium, Newport, R.I., June 21 to 22, 2011.

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