Party hearty, Washington

All too often, we think of federal bureaucrats as gray, humorless folks whose idea of a rip-roaring good time is shredding a big stack of dusty documents or, perhaps, faxing knock-knock jokes to their fellow bureaucrats across town.

Thank God for the wild men at the Transportation Security Administration – these guys really know how to party.

According to a recent Associated Press report, the two-year-old security agency threw itself a swinging $461,745 bash last year to remind America that if we put away our party hats, the terrorists win.

Held at the elegant Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington, D.C., the pull-out-all-the-stops celebration was highlighted by awards handed out to 543 employees of the security agency, along with cake, finger food and balloons. Lots and lots of balloons.

According to AP, balloon arches alone cost the agency $1,486. Like I said, these boys know how to party.

And what’s not to celebrate? Especially when the Transportation Security Administration also is reported to have handed out cash bonuses averaging $16,000 each to several of its senior executives in 2003.

Yeeeee-haaaaw! Now that’s a cause for celebration, amigos.

After all, happy senior executives make for a happy workplace and a happy workplace means that we’ve got al-Qaida on the run.

Time was when an elite cadre of Pentagon Air Force generals had the market cornered on hardcore federal partying. A couple of cases of Rebel Yell whiskey, some battered lamp shades for stylish headgear and an old 8-track tape by Steppenwolf and the non-stop fun could go on into the wee hours.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is rumored to have had some bodacious get-togethers, too, but nobody talks much about those. Besides, everybody knows that the DEA never, ever has any balloon arches.

Buncha stiffs…

And don’t think for a minute that the gang at the Transportation Security Administration just threw their awards ceremony together at the last minute. No sirree.

Spontaneous partying can become prohibitively expensive. Without careful planning, unexpected costs can run rampant, particularly if some fool doubles up on the anchovy paste order.

When you’re spending the taxpayers’ money, you want each and every detail of your party to be carefully thought out and no expense left to chance.

So the agency not only decided to hire a party planner for the affair, they even put the job out to bid. And they got one for only $85,552.

When you stop to think that these party animals par excellence could easily have spent $100,000 or more for some snooty Washington party planner, $85,552 is chump change.

If you ask me, it’s pretty clear that the folks at the Transportation Security Administration were watching every penny when they put this little soiree together. Hell, they didn’t even have a mechanical bull or any belly dancers.

Frugal? You betcha…

Originally published November 21, 2004