I understand that this sort of thing looks bad, and no doubt the resignations of top GSA officials were inevitable. They broke the Federal rules they probably wrote themselves, so they got in trouble. But $823,000 for a large conference is not really that extreme, and if the rest of these charges are over the top, they are hardly criminal. This conference is held every other year so that employees from the GSA's western offices can interact with the Washington leadership, and it was put in place because those western employees complained about feeling isolated. If having a big party every other year helps with those morale issues, is it really a waste?
I wonder if tolerating more of this sort of thing might actually make the government run better. Most people think they are not paid enough or all the work they do, especially for thankless jobs like keeping the lights on in Federal offices. We all feel financially pinched and stretched, and people love any chance to have some fun and bill it to their employers. Can we really expect people to keep their nose to the Federal real estate grindstone for 40 years without ever doing anything exciting, or anything wrong? No doubt serving on those scouting parties was a perk that GSA management handed out to favored subordinates, giving them a few days of expense account adventure. And if that kept some clever real estate people working for the government, instead of jumping to private firms, is that really so terrible?
The urge to find fault and create scandal is one we all ought to be careful of. Most other people are not really any worse than we are.