A conference by any other name…

Given the “constrained fiscal environment” and fuss made over the excesses at any number of government sponsored conferences over the last four years, the very word “Conference” has been formally stricken from official usage. No matter what you’re doing, no matter how much it smells, looks, and acts like a conference you can never, ever call it that for fear of bringing down the wrath of the anointed – and even worse, the attention of the Washington Post.

Despite the official prohibition against staging (and largely against even attending) conferences, there sure are a hell of a lot of people fully engaged in planning for and attending workshops, councils, boards, reviews, forums, and very large group meetings. Under other circumstances, they’d be called conferences and no one would bat an eyelash, but great pains are taken to make sure they’re called anything but what they are.

Now, I’m just a cog in this great machine, but when I see our most senior leaders sitting before Congress begging for permission to cut pay and benefits while they’re still allowing grip and grin sessions and a hundred other boondoggles to happen with a nod and a wink, well, you can rack up mine as a vote of no confidence. There’s plenty of waste in this vast bureaucracy… and most of those on the inside would be happy to point it out if anyone were going to take a serious swing at eliminating it. But while we’re still in the business of wasting time and money on conferences by any other name, citing payroll as a major cost driver just doesn’t pass the common sense test.

Thank God we apparently never grade that test.

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