You’d think that in the wake of the GSA’s scandalous Las Vegas spending spree, government agencies would be a bit more careful about wasteful spending.
Apparently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) didn’t get the memo and has been caught trying to hire a magician for an upcoming confab held in Silver Springs, MD, according to POLITICO.
To be specific, NOAA was looking to hire a “speaker” to give a presentation on the “magic of change” (and they’re not “magic tricks,” they’re “illusions”).
“The agency wanted a motivational speaker to create ‘a unique model of translating magic and [principles] of the psychology of magic, magic tools, techniques, and experiences into a method of teaching leadership,’” POLITICO reports, citing the NOAA ad.
Of course, once media outlets discovered the ad, NOAA immediately took it down.
The agency “has referred the solicitation to the General Counsel and NOAA's Chief of Resources, Operations and Management to review the statement of work and the process surrounding the solicitation,” NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen said in an email to POLITICO.
“No speakers have been hired or confirmed for this training session,” he added.
Now, to be fair, trying to hire one magician doesn’t make NOAA as frivolous as the GSA. Furthermore, and unlike the GSA, at least NOAA officials claim the “illusionist” was meant for “educational” purposes as opposed to just entertainment.
“Still, spending taxpayers’ money on prestidigitation risks conjuring up comparisons with the General Services Administration’s infamous Vegas adventure,” POLITICO’s Alex Guillen writes.
When contacted by POLITICO reporters Thursday, Patricia McBride-Finneran, the NOAA point of contact listed on the ad, said that “somebody from communications [is] coming up to talk to me about what I should be saying,” and that she would comment later.
However, earlier that same day, she had no problem defending NOAA’s solicitation, saying that it “bears no comparison with the GSA affair.”
“I’m sure it will be talked about, and this is a new topic,” McBride-Finneran said. “But this is a program in which we train potential managers -- just a one-day conference, where we teach about different things that pertain to government, such as working with Congress.”
And in case you were wondering what it takes to be a government-approved magician (via the ad that has been taken down):
[Must use] experiential exercises, physical energizers, magic tricks, puzzles, brain teasers, word games, humor, and teambuilding exercises … to demonstrate how to stimulate creativity, encourage active participation, and practice needed skills and competencies.
Furthermore, applicants were required to be experienced in the works of “Dr Howard [Gardner] on multiple intelligences and how this relates to creativity and obtaining team solutions,” Guillen reports.
For those not familiar with Dr. Gardner, he is a developmental psychologist at Harvard University who is probably best known for his “theory of multiple intelligences,” he adds.
This article has been updated.