Skip to main content

tv   Politics Public Policy Today  CSPAN  April 16, 2012 8:00pm-1:00am EDT

8:00 pm
if that law goes down, we will be set back 50 years. if that section goes down, it's the core provision of the voting rights act, that requires states which have engaged in intentional voting discrimination in the past to bring all of its voting laws, laws that impact voting rights, so that they can be precleared by the justice department, because -- before they go into effect. every time that there is particularly a case that may seem for some of the opponents of section 5, and there are many, such a case will become before the supreme court, northwest austin municipal utility vs. holder was such a case. 8-1 decision upholding section 5. it is impossible to overemphasize how important
8:01 pm
john payton's victory was in sustaining this core provision of the voting rights act. . did so and won a great victory for civil rights. he was lead counsel in a case that is still very much discussed, a case which has a new case, a case going before the supreme court this year. i'm speaking of the university of michigan case where the plaintiffs sought to eliminate affirmative action in higher education in both and law and undergraduate schools and much of the progress that had been made over 25 years would go
8:02 pm
prematurely. john handled these cases and in the lower courts and argued the case at the supreme court as well. and as we know, the court found that the law school that upheld, upheld the use of race as a factor, one factor, not the factor. and affirmative in higher education was saved. i would like to submit for the record a piece written by a colleague and friend of john payton. joshua weiner. he wrote a short piece after john payton died, which, in a real sense, details one occasion
8:03 pm
that summarizes the principled nature of john's life. he was on the board of an organization called appleseed, which does good works for the district of columbia. the district of columbia had a financial control board during a period when the city was going through a financial crisis. the control board took control of a -- the d.c. board of education. the d.c. board of education had a terrible reputation. they engaged in a lot of infighting in order to keep half-empty schools open, for example and all agreed they did nothing for education in the
8:04 pm
district of columbia the speaker pro tempore: the leave is granted to have documents submitted for the record. homes homes -- ms. norton: how much time do i have remaining? mrs. christensen: take another five. ms. norton: the control board reached out to take control of the education and had control of every arm of the d.c. government. but john payton and knew that the law that set up the control board gained its authority to take over the board of education. it was an elected body. what to do?
8:05 pm
appleseed, very much opposed the board of education. yet the board of education had done illegal acts, except nobody knew it. but technical lawyers or people who paid attention to the fine letter of the law -- the appleseed board engaged in the appropriate debate. as to whether they should sue the control board for illegal -- for illegal action in taking over a terrible board of education. john payton cast the deciding vote against -- john cast the deciding vote for the lawsuit.
8:06 pm
and he did so because he said, he did not than want to be part of an organization that failed to stand for the rule of law. how did john payton handled this? he knew the board didn't stand for the children. what he did as a part of the appleseed board was to settle the case ultimately that returned the power to the school board and then to work through the enactment of a law which then passed the district of columbia approving -- that approved the restructuring of school governance, giving governance to the mayor and eliminating the board of education. you see what he stood for, he
8:07 pm
found a preliminaried way to keep the control board from exceeding its authority illegally and found a principled way to eliminate the d.c. school board without using illegal means. that is the kind of principled life that john payton life -- lived. he has left a terrible vacuum in this city where he lived and in the law which he loved. he said he never regretted leaving corporate law. while he practiced it he was doing pro bo nmpomp cases for civil rights and never regretted leaving it because the best possible job was the job he had
8:08 pm
when he died. john payton said on the anniversary of the naac legal defense and education, when everybody was joyful as they might have been, no organization which has done more for human rights in our country than the naacp legal defense fund, while celebrating its president, he said there is too much to celebrate when we see some of the progress has been very uneven. somehow john was a man of great balance. he understood that as he said, african americans have had made extraordinary progress since the legal defense fund was established. and the other part of him said that what had driven him to civil rights in the first place
8:09 pm
continue to drive him and must continue to drive us. the best way that we can today remember our friend, his work, the man is to understand that what he would want us to do is find a way to help complete the work he was about at the end of his life. his inspiration to young lawyers, his inspiration well beyond law was so great that i say to my good friend from the virgin islands, that i believe -- we will have no hesitation -- we will find no hesitation among in the greater community and seeking to do all we can to
8:10 pm
continue the work that was the center of the life of john payton. we celebrate his life today. we celebrate a great life in the american law. we celebrate a great washingtonian. we celebrate all that john did. we mourn his early passing. we celebrate and are grateful that in the time given to him, he accomplished so much. i thank my good friend from the virgin islands and i yield her the balance of my time. mrs. christensen: thank you congresswoman holmes norton and it's wonderful to have you here, a close friend, close colleague of john payton to give us a history not only of his
8:11 pm
accomplishments but of the man himself and we thank you for joining us. herself a very strong fighter for justice and equality, a legal scholar like john payton. i want to close by saying a few words about john payton and the work we have yet to do. at the retreat of the congressional black caucus foundation as we were coming to terms with the loss of our colleague, don payne that we learned of john's passing. it was distressing to think that when we need strong fighters more than ever that not only donald payne but john payton would be taken away from us, we have their body of work and contributions and that standing on them and their inspiration, we can be strength thepped to
8:12 pm
continue the fight they led so well. many of my colleagues, i i came to know john in 2003 what was at a law firm in washington, d.c.,. he was the lead counsel for the 2003 university of michigan affirmative action cases. in the end the supreme court upheld the law school's policy in a related case but i also came to know john and his wife at the conference i attended with congresswoman barbara lee in geneva on voter participation, which barbara the lead -- the director of that conference. but john's work in civil rights as you heard began from his undergraduate time at college and continued at harvard law school and worked with students that were involved in the
8:13 pm
boston's school busing controversy. many students at harvard, were fortunate to have the benefit of his experience and expertise. he was active in many domestic and international causes, along with his wife, an international human rights lawyer, he was one of the international monitors in south africa and the very first election in which south african blacks could vote, at the time that nelson mandela was elected president. the legal defense fund said that he was, quote, a bright light and a teacher who believed that american democracy thrives when it embraces all of our voices, end quote. president obama called him a true champion of equality and protected civil rights in the classroom and ballot box.
8:14 pm
as we honor john payton and his legacy, we honor him and continue our fight for justice. last week, i participated in the 2012 justice and training program where researchers and advocates from all over the country convened here in washington, d.c., and it was distressing to here the communities in this country are suffering health impacts and still in 2012 have to be fight of free of polluting industries and for clean air and water. they cry out for justice. the case of 17-year-old tray scron martin who was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer has not only aroused sympathy for the family. it has revifled the long and shameful profiling in this
8:15 pm
country and flagrant use of guns and gun culture that so many people promote here. trayvon's death is tragic but that story continues to be told in countless communities across our nation. our children and families cry out for justice. the wealth gap continues to widen dangerously. according to pew foundation, the wealth of whites are 20 times of african americans and 18 times of latinos. the joint center of public studies have shown that poverty and extreme poverty and persistent segregation create is disparities. to quote a princeton university in a recent paper, this is a quote, there are grounds to be concerned about the rapid expansion and inquality at the very top of the income
8:16 pm
distribution of the united states. this is not only an injustice in its itself but spawns injustice in education, health and government and end of quote. the increasing income inequality in this country cries out for justice. but let me end with health. there are 80,000 excess deaths of people of color which should be prevented. every minority group suffers some disparity. many of these deaths and the countless diss proportionate disabilities could be prevented. with the continued implementation of the affordable care act. it is health and just is ties that martin luther king called the most inhumane sm the endless years of these tragic inhe can quiets and the millions of
8:17 pm
people who have suffered cry out for justice. john payton dedicated his life. an article in "the civil rights monitor," he said, the problems of race and inequality in our country have proven to be enduring and deep-seeded in nature but we must recognize this is a marathon and not just a race if we are to find solutions that work. we are grateful for the leg of the marathon that he ran and the progress that he made in this race while he was with us. to his wife and his sisters and his brother, the naacp legal defense fund and many colleagues and friends, i join my colleagues in offering our sincere condolences and those on behalf of the people of the u.s. virgin islands. i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady yields back.
8:18 pm
for what purpose does the gentleman from ohio rise? >> i move that we do now adjourn. the speaker pro tempore: those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. accordingly the house stands expected to take up the small business tax cut act. live coverage here on c-span. the general services administration inspector general said he is investigating c-span.
8:19 pm
then a pentagon briefing on recent attacks in afghanistan. then a group calls for making changes to the u.s. tax code. >> jury selection began in the trowel for what -- trial of roger clemens this week. >> let me read to you what his wife said in her affidavit. i do depots and state in 1999 or 2000 andy told me he had a conversation with roger clemens in which roger admitted to using human growth hormone. mr. clemens, i remind you are under attack. you have said the conversation never happened. if that was true why would she
8:20 pm
depose that? >> if he knowingly knew that i had taken hdh, he would have spoken to me about the subject. >> watch the testimony at c- >> the former head of the general services administration apologized after the inspector general released a report on the conference. the house oversight committee is chaired by congressman darryl issa.
8:21 pm
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2012] [captioning performed by national captioning institute]
8:22 pm
>> the committee will come to order. it is the custom to read our mission statement at the start of every hearing. i think particularly today it is important we read it. the oversight committee's mission statement is we exist to secure two fundamental principles. first, americans have a right to know the money washington takes from then it is well spent. second, americans deserve an
8:23 pm
efficient government that works for them. our duty on the oversight government reform committee is to protect these rights. our solemn responsibility is to hold government accountable to taxpayers because taxpayers have a right to know what they get from their government. it is our job to work tirelessly in partnership with citizen watchdogs to deliver reform to the federal bureaucracy. this is our mission statement. i might add, when i say citizen watchdogs, that does include the inspector general's. we're here today to get answers to questions that should have been asked and answered long, long, long ago. the details that come to light about the tsa conference held in las vegas have raised serious questions in the minds of the american people about how government is using their tax dollars. there are those who believe
8:24 pm
government and its reach should be expanded. they believe government should be bigger, have more resources, and play a larger role in the everyday lives of the american people. what has come to light about these activities gives us pause for thought, and to anyone who opposes cutting government spending that in fact there is much to be cut in government spending. there are five key questions that stand out, and hopefully by the end of this hearing some will be answered. first, why did it take 11 months for this investigation under the obama administration to come to light in a way in which meaningful action could begin? the inspector general briefed the administrator about details in an interim report and gave
8:25 pm
details of those responsible for gross waste. indications are that some political appointees believe even this year this report should be kept private. we on the committee find that outrageous. although it is the custom of many inspector general's to inform this committee during early interim reporting and prior to a final report, that alone is not unusual. however, the fact that 11 months transpired gives us a particular reason to say, how long after an interim report and no action is taken before congress is to be informed? there is still outstanding questions regarding the resignation of the gsa administrator. who asked her to resign? what is the specific reason that she was asked to resign for? was it because she was
8:26 pm
responsible for the fence that unfolded at the convention, or she mishandled a public relations of the fallout that came to 11 months later? martha johnson has been removed as chief of staff. michael robertson, also here today, has remained in place. he's previously served as legislative counsel in the seventh, and serve as a personal adviser to the president. it begs the question, are we really to believe the chief of staff to the gsa administrator and a right hand man did not know anything about this for such a long time, and if he did not, should he not have? did he communicate the seriousness of this citrus to the white house, and if so, when? why was jeff neely, the chief organizer of the 2010 las vegas conference, given a bonus approved by the agency's most
8:27 pm
senior officials, even though they knew and were discussing sensational details of what had happened at the conference? the question here has to be all the good works, all the assertions of a good job -- if you have this kind of abuse, can they balance out to be a positive bonus totaling over $9,000? while we are determined to uncover the truth about what went wrong and why it is equally important to look to the future, i want to thank the tsa's inouye acting administrator -- gsa's new acting administrator for being here today and testifying. he called me shortly after taking the job, assured me as one would expect that he did not know everything, knew there was a problem, and would work
8:28 pm
diligently to fix it. that is all we can ask from the dais, is that when mistakes are made, there were remedied, corrective action is taken, and it be done in a professional wake with an understanding that the bureaucracy is in fact neither republican nor democratic, that every administration faces these problems, and that solutions will not come by pointing fingers to this administration, the last administration, or the next administration. wasteful spending is a problem that transcends multiple administrations, it is incumbent upon the present administration to change the culture as best they can on their watch and lead to the next administration a better one than they inherited. with that, i recognize mr. cummings for his opening statement. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i want to begin by thanking mr. miller, the inspector general at
8:29 pm
gsa, for bringing to light this gross abuse of taxpayer funds and for his work over the past year investigating the conference in 2010. two weeks ago, i, along with the rest of the nation, was appalled to learn the results of this investigation. gsa employees betrayed the trust we placed in them. for example, the inspector general's report described the actions describedjeff neely, a career employee who for many years at the senior level and an executive in the pacific rim region in san francisco, is not the only official implicated in the investigation, and several others have maximize their own benefit in an environment in which they knew could get away with it.
8:30 pm
nevertheless, mr. neel'y's role has raised questions. he has raised an indefensible pattern of conduct, including the repeatedly violation travel and procurement rules, holding lavish parties in luxury suites, and allowing his wife and other non-government officials to participate in some of these expense.t taxpayers' in addition, the documents indicate he was aware his actions were inappropriate. in one e-mail, he invited personal friends to the
8:31 pm
conference, writing, we will get you a room near us. we will pick up the room tab. it will be of glass. did he then wrote this. -- it will be a blast. he then wrote this. i know i am bad. why not enjoy it a wild weekend? -- while we can? might as well enjoy it. it stops now. his wife directed to the actions of federal employees and ordered thousands of dollars in food at the expense of taxpayers. in one case, his wife reportedly impersonated a federal employee associated joining him -- so she
8:32 pm
could join him in a private conference. mr. neely and his wife to believe they are some sort of royalty to use taxpayer funds to bankroll their lavish lifestyle. they disregarded one of the most basic tenets of government surface and -- servers. it is not your money. is the taxpayers' money. some of this will be about efforts to get this back. good are want to know how to get some of -- i want to know how to get some of this hour. i understand he intends to invoke the fifth amendment. that is his right.
8:33 pm
however, i do not support granting immunity at this time. on thursday, the chairman sent a letter to his attorney, suggesting the chairman was considering immunizing him. on friday his attorney responded positively, right thing that he will abide by the appropriate court order in 32 writing he will abide by the appropriate order. granting immunity is a serious action that should not be entered into lightly, since it could negatively impact prosecution. such a decision requires consultation with the justice department.
8:34 pm
our committee has no consultations about this, and i see no reason to immunize him if he has taken the actions of which he stands accused. in addition to addressing the actions of specific individuals, we need to understand how the system allows this pattern, the extent to which did happen, and the reforms to prevent it from ever happening again. according to interviews, these activities have been going on for years. when discussing the 2010 conference, one witness said the planning was similar to what happened previously. we proceeded based on that. when investigated, asking another witness whether the conference was an of lawyer, he said it was pretty consistent with previous region was --
8:35 pm
whether the conference was an outlier, he said it was consistent. one of the most damaging aspect is it tarnishes the reputation of government workers who dedicate their lives to public service. it gives them a bad name, and it is unfair. we have employees who follow the rules every single day. they pull their money out of their own pocket to pay for coffee at the office. they are honest and hardworking, and they should not be painted with the same brush. i thank you for calling this hearing, and i yield back. it >> i now ask unanimous consent that our colleague from missouri be allowed to participate in today's hearing without objection. all members will have seven days
8:36 pm
to submit opening statements for the record. we now introduce our panel. the inspector general of the general services administration. martha johnson is a former administrator of general services administrator. is the regional commissioner at the general services administration. mr. michael robertson is chief of staff at the general services administration, and david soleil is the deputy commissioner. pursuant to our rules, all witnesses are required to take the oath. would you please rise to take the oath? the you solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
8:37 pm
truth? as the record show that all witnesses have entered in the affirmative. some of you have written statements. some do not. your written statements will be placed on the record in their entirety, so you may either read them for five minutes or make other such comments you think will be helpful. the chair recognizes mr. miller for five minutes the reagan >> thank you, an -- for 5 minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. as the ranking member, members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. on april 2 i published a report involving miss management of its conference in fall of 2010.
8:38 pm
it may be difficult among all to find, but there is a glimmer of good news. the oversight commission worked. my office interviewed witnesses and issued a report. good no one stopped us from writing the report, and no one stopped us from issuing the report. congress recently strengthened, and we thank you for that. it helps us to our job of protecting taxpayer dollars, but we may be the last resort for protecting taxpayer dollars and capturing waste and abuse after the money is spent. more needs to be done to establish early warning systems,
8:39 pm
and that is why the acting told theator and iro employees to warn us as soon as they see anything wrong. how can other agencies trust them to handle taxpayer dollars given to them? gsa committed numerous violations. this is of special concern, because other federal agencies need to be able to look to gsa of the model of how to conduct planning. as an attempt to model entrepreneurial spirit, some seem to have forgotten they have a special responsibility to the taxpayers to spend their money wisely and economically. while a private business may use profits to award employees and a
8:40 pm
lavish fashion, a government agency may not. in preparing the western conference report, numerous dedicated professionals work long hours to ensure the report was accurate, and it drew no conclusions beyond those fully supported by evidence. it is my hope this will allow gsa to improve its lending practices in the future so that tsa may not only be a better stuart of taxpayer dollars but act as a leader in federal government. i thank you for the opportunity to discuss this report. i request the report as well as my written statement be part of the record. >> thank you, ms. johnson. >> thank you for providing the
8:41 pm
opportunity to present his testimony today. on april 2, 2012, i resigned as administrator and left my cherished career as a public servant. i did so to step aside and allow a new team to rebuild from major missteps, regarding the conference in october, 2012. i've previously served in the clinton administration. at that time the administration was strong, and other programs were producing much value for our customers. when i returned in 2010, the agency was not the same. strategy was nonexistent. major customers reviewed our partnership has said gant, and -- as scant and leasing hand alone. more than two years have elapsed.
8:42 pm
my own confirmation was delayed by nine months. by the time i was sworn in, four administrators had overseen the agency. i did not know there was another problem. the conference and economical training event in the 1990's had a evolved into an arrogant, self congratulatory event that the little federal workers. members competed in entertainment rather than building performance capability. the expense of planning was under way, and i was unaware of the scope. the slide began my tenure. i take this opportunity to congratulate those whose record is extraordinary, building a portfolio 22% more efficient, and efficient management of
8:43 pm
220,000 vehicles, billions in purchase card transactions. as for my part, i sat about -- i set about changing. when the strategic path is clear. customers praise us publicly. the labor is fruitful. headquarters held 2500 people. it will be home to 2400 people this year, allowing us to save millions. this does not compensate for the issues raised by this committee. reported mr. miller's without hesitation, agreeing completely pure you.
8:44 pm
i am grieved by the gall to this use tax dollars. this is how that chopper unfolded -- chapter unfolded. deputy administrators and requested an investigation. they subsequently communicated progress. in may of 2011 we realized this was a serious matter, and we needed all the facts. we were eager for the full report. i addressed leadership and conference management. i place a new leadership. we also backed the council with an internal reassignment. i established a chief administrator's office reporting to me with responsibility for
8:45 pm
acquisition. they have already been overhauling conferences. the research management conference was evolving from an off site to a hotel to a short event. we also capitalized -- categorized expenditures. i believe they would conclude judiciously. we then began judiciary actions, revised budgets to penalize the regions. i accepted recommendations. i extended disciplinary action to career employees. it is a complicated process that is under way. this led me to terminate two employees, and i submitted my own resignation.
8:46 pm
i personally apologized to the american people. i deeply regret this. i will mourn for the rest of the life the loss of disappointment. -- of this appointment. >> thank you, members of the committee. thank you for allowing the opportunity to appear before you today. my name is michael robinson, and i am chief of staff. i am appalled and disappointed by the indefensible conduct outlined in the report. the behavior undermines the core mission, the trust given to us by our customers and the trust of those we ultimately serve, the american people taken strong and who action to prevent further abuses from occurring, and we will continue to work hard to restore faith in our
8:47 pm
mission. i look forward to working with this committee, and i welcome the opportunity to answer any questions. thank you. >> thank you for inviting me to testify today. i am the deputy commissioner of the public buildings service. i sincerely apologize of my remarks of the awards ceremony. at the time, i was not aware of the significant spending and irregularities. i did not intend to condone wasteful spending or minimize congressional oversight. i especially apologize to congresswoman norton. i have respect for you. you have always been an advocate while holding us accountable, and i did not mean to be little you or anyone. i intended to make a joke that i viewed like a rose. we have a serious job as
8:48 pm
stewards of taxpayer funds. i stress the importance of the work we do. during my presentation, i told the award recipient i was making his dream come true by making him commissioner for the rest of the day. i was not seriously delegating any authority to the rewardee. my understanding of the time was that the commissioner was paying for the charges associated with the after-hours party on tuesday evening, so i tried to do that in a humorous way that suggested the awardee would have to pay. finally i suggested he would have to pay for his proposed pay increases. my intent was to answer to a lot of people in the administration and congress, not to mock the various overside roles. my remarks were wrong, and i take full responsibility for
8:49 pm
what i said. i understand the outrage about this conference. i preface to the rest of my statement by saying that i have only seen a report that seems to be the same as what was released publicly. i was not a question during the investigation, so i do not know all the details. i no longer have access to e- mails or files, so i am not able to review these events. this represents my findings of what i remember from almost two years ago. i want to start by apologizing. i was not directly involved in the planning for the conference or any financial contract irregularities identified. i did attend to and a half days of the conference. there were things that seem to over the top, but i believe they were not being paid for with government funds. items like the casinos and after
8:50 pm
our parties were being paid by individuals. if i had known, i would have been concerned and reported it. i did not have authority over how the original budget was spent, a procurement activities. the staff reported to their administrators, who report to the administrator's office. my primary role is dealing with now the omb and others on critical policy issues. i am not an officer and do not have a warrant to approve expenditures. i attended two other receptions, one hosted by the commissioner, and i understood he would be paying for commissioners. i believe it was paid for by the hosting regional commissioners. i did not believe any government funds were used to pay for the events after hours. i spent the last 15 years of my
8:51 pm
career working for gsa, and i believe strongly in the mission and what it provides. i am truly sorry for my comments and apologize to this committee, the administration, my fellow employees, and the american taxpayers. i am willing to take any questions you have. good >> you have not provided any written testimony before the committee. do you wish to make a statement? >> i do not see. >> it is my understanding you may want to remain silent. is that correct? >> yes, that is correct. five the topic of today's hearing is the culture of ways and spending. you are uniquely positioned to provide testimony that will help the committee better understanding the spending of more than $800,000 of las vegas
8:52 pm
in 2010. to that end, i must ask you to consider and now the questions. what is your title at tsgsa? >> i decline to answer. >> did you attend the conference in las vegas? >> on advice of my counsel, i decline to answer based on my fifth amendment constitutional privilege. >> did you approve the funding for the 2010 regional conference? >> on the insights of my counsel, i respectfully decline to answer based on the fifth amendment. >> what was the original budget for that conference? >> on the advice of my counsel, i respectfully decline to answer based upon my fifth
8:53 pm
amendment constitutional privilege. >> are you currently employed by the gsa democrats on the vice of my counsel, i respectfully decline to answer based on my fifth amendment constitutional privilege. >> are you prepared to answer any questions about your participation in the 2010 regional conference? >> i respectfully decline to answer any questions today based on my fifth amendment constitutional privileges. >> in light of the fact that mr. neely has asserted his rights under the fifth amendment, i have no questions. >> given the witness has indicated he does not intend to answer any questions, and out of respect for his constitutional i asked you to excuse
8:54 pm
him from the table but have him remain for the rest of the hearing. without objection, so ordered. we will now take a very short recess, and i will ask mr. neely and his attorney to join us through that door.
8:55 pm
>> i want to thank all of you for your patience. i have served for 12 years. this is the first time we have had somebody to this before, so we wanted to make sure we do it according to the rules. i will recognize myself for five months -- five minutes. the bonustroubled minby mr. neely receives. how can you justify a bonus if mr. miller was at the center of
8:56 pm
this misconduct? >> there are two processes. one is conduct, and the other is a performance. the conduct was wrapped up in an investigation. >> were you aware that excess money was spent? >> i have received a communication with non conclusive results. i was concerned. i wanted the full picture. the performance reviews are based on maintaining, reforming, and now transforming. i was informed that his process were the models for the nation. i granted him a four.
8:57 pm
>> you granted that note for your final. i am going to ask you something not normally asked. would you have found a way to not grant that bonus considering what you knew? >> i am not in that position, but i believe the administrator was free to not give the regional commissioner a good performance evaluation and performance award. she was free not to give those special awards to the regional commissioner. she had in her possession of final report on the employee award program, and that was final. all the facts were nailed down
8:58 pm
on that. she had an interim report. >> i appreciate you are able to buy for gates, but did you brevet -- did you relieve mr. neely of some of his responsibilities? >> it was an open communication. it was not an interim report. i received it through the deputy administrator, and they were communicating with us that the investigation was under way. , and is go through this commo will make it available for the record. was it a 30-page report the details excess spending and ceremonies, and were you aware of that?
8:59 pm
>> i was aware of a power point slide idec, but i did not see it. >> it was not important? >> the deputy administrator saw it and share information with us. >> you personally were responsible for his bonus, but you were not willing to look at the evidence, but i thought was a conduct review. >> you have answered that, and i am sorry you can bifurcate it in that way. mr. miller, does this one incident represents the only time you have seen the excesses? have you seen similar waste spending of taxpayer money in a way that is inconsistent with requirements of law? >> in region 9, yes, mr. chairman.
9:00 pm
but this is to use the term widespread. >> we have heard from witnesses but indicated it was widespread. >> certainly five days for our ribbon cutting is another example. are you investigating other activities that might go to the very question of objectivity of officials and democrats we have other investigations. good -- of the activity of officials and democrats we have other investigations, including bribes, possibly kickbacks, but i would have to check. >> this committee investigated
9:01 pm
an organization formerly called the middle management service, and we found they were partying with the person they were supposed to oversee. they were taking gifts and favors, and they thought they needed a close relationship with the people they were interfacing with unjustified ignoring several rules. is that similar to what you are seeing in? >> it is similar. good >> i might remind everybody, although we produce scathing reports and try to get abortion ministration to make changes, we fail to do so, and the gulf of mexico was filled with oil because of ongoing failures. >> mr. miller, as i walked around the district this
9:02 pm
weekend, a lot of people were complaining about having sex, and there were thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in improper expenditures in 2010. they charged expenses for after our parties, and purchased food gsa employees. one recommendation you made was to determine whether gsa can recover funds for meals or non- employees. i think a lot of people agree with that. these employees i've played this is their money and they should pay it back -- act like this is their money and they should pay it back. what would you do to recover the
9:03 pm
money for employees? >> when dan became the acting administrator, one of our first conversation was about sending a bill to the regional commissioner, the former commissioner, and others responsible for the parties and other expenses, and i believe the acting administrator has sent a bill. i believe he would say he has already taken steps to send a bill. >> if you do not pay it back, what happens? do they have civil remedies? >> perhaps civil remedies. >> in several interviews, witnesses told you they were scared that mr. neely would retaliate against them if they blew the whistle. this is shocking. one employee said if you cross mr. neely, you are in trouble.
9:04 pm
the threatened you with poor performance appraisals. when another employee tried to raise concerns, a witness told you investigators that employee was squashed like a bug by mr. neely. those are the threats he allegedly made. are you aware of those statements? >> yes, and more. bias was this a significant factor enabling them to continue this practice for years? >> it is significant. they apparently had a very hostile environment, and when someone spoke up, they were apparently squashed like a bug, and when other individuals spoke
9:05 pm
up, they were put down and not in a gentle way, so that is a factor unfortunately. >> this is the same guy mr. johnson gave a bonus 0? >> yes. >> it was not until a high- level employee raised the issue that mr. neely's actions came to light. it seems that mr. neely has a lot to answer for. the chairman has written to his attorney stating the committee was considering a community, and i applaud the chairman. we have agreed, and he has made it clear that he has now indicated when he has no immediate plans to go forward with the community, and i want to ask you this question.
9:06 pm
given what you have uncovered about mr. neely and his actions, would you support granting immunity? >> i agree with the decision not to grant immunity. >> would you tell us why? >> i believe it should run its course and if any charges are brought against mr. neely, he should defend himself. all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and if charges are launched, i think it would be in a court of law. >> let's go back to these threats.
9:07 pm
were there numerous people who said they felt fear? >> yes, we had a witness that was extremely afraid, and we made the witness a confidential witness, and even though she has gotten a new job, she was extremely afraid that she would experienced retaliation. >> when they used words like squash like a bug, did you give any idea? >> i cannot go beyond what the transcript of the interview says. >> i take it you were convinced this was totally inappropriate. >> we took it seriously. when he or she said he was afraid of retaliation. >> would the gentleman yield?
9:08 pm
>> i would like to make sure we understand that when our councils provided that letter, it was based on the assertion that he might take the fifth, and we listed a number of things that could affect somebody, but most importantly, we have a conundrum that often happens, that until you subpoena somebody and they come and take the fifth, any consideration cannot begin, so rather than a conclusion, it was a form letter to make sure this committee stated properly within the bar's determination, but we wanted to make sure it was understood we were hoping mr. neely would reconsider his willingness to cooperate. sadly, he did not.
9:09 pm
>> i want to thank you for your collaboration, and i want to make it clear you were in no way going to proceed with immunity during our discussions. >> and none of our investigations have we ever considered full immunity, and we have not even considered use immunity, so i do not expect that would be often, and i suspect we would consult with you will be for doing it. >> i appreciate it. >> we now go to the former chairman of the committee. >> you can call me a former chairman americus. >> when you discuss the preliminary report, did you go into all the details in this report?
9:10 pm
this was on may 17 of 2011. >> that is what my calendar indicates, and this is to the best of my recollection. >> you knew about this? >> bindi, and my deputy reached over and said it is unusual we would do an interim report, but it was so you could fix usages. >> did you tell her about of bullying that took place? >> we were aware of the witnesses, but it has been about a year ago. >> that is pretty significant. it seems to me you probably mentioned it in policthe least. do you remember may 11? you remember this report? >> i do not remember, and i do not have access to my schedule.
9:11 pm
>> you do not remember the meeting? >> the inspector general and i met. >> this is not an insignificant meeting. >> i am not saying i do not remember the issues. i cannot place where we had that meeting. i do not have my calendar. >> he talked about the irregularities and the pressure put on employees, and you did not take any action? >> there are a couple of things i must repeat. first, it was not a final report. i asked for the investigation, and i wanted to hear the full context. >> i heard that before. mr. neely had been told he had a lead people, and you kept him in his position, and you gave him a
9:12 pm
$9,000 bonus. it seems almost unthinkable. if someone came into my office and said there is someone on your staff pushing people around, if someone was pushing members of the organization of around, i would have taken action immediately. i certainly would not have left him in tests -- disposition, and i would not have given him a bonus. i think this is important. i cannot imagine you seeing this report and him telling you this information and saying, it is just an interim report. we will wait until it is finalized. >> i have great respect for the inspector general. we asked for this investigation. one does not interfere with an investigation. i assumed he would be moving quickly. >> you wanted to see the final
9:13 pm
report, but if you knew mr. neely was accused of doing this, and you knew they alluded to him pushing employees around and threatening him, why wouldn't you put him in some position where he could not do it while the investigation continued? i cannot understand why you left him there during the next eight or nine months when you knew what he had done, and even if you did not know for sure, you would have taken the precaution of putting him somewhere where he could not always someone again. i hate belize, don't you? >> i hate allays, too. -- i hate bullies, don't you? >> i hate bullies too. >> and we did not get into that aspect. a lot of it came up in the investigation. >> did you mention that to her?
9:14 pm
>> i do not know if we did. >> you said you mentioned it, some course of action. >> it was a coercive atmosphere. we had a witness. >> you told her about a witness? >> no, because it was confidential. what did you give her enough information to where she should have been concerned about this guy? >> absolutely. >> if there was concern, why didn't you put him in a position where he could not do what he was doing for the rest of the end of statehood region rest of the investigation? >> do i only have three seconds? >> you can take your time. >> when i asked for the investigation, susan requested the investigation, and it was very clear it was serious, and i did not want to move until i had
9:15 pm
an official, complete, non- conclusive report. at the same time, i did a number of things to manage the situation. i put a regional administrator in to #nine, supervising. we relieve him of his second job. we also immediately appointed a new general counsel for the region when the person retired, because i wanted to make sure we had a good team in the region that i could trust. we also did things about management and who controls. it was important for me not to interfere in the way it would upset the investigation.
9:16 pm
you have to understand i was not expected to wait much longer, so those were the circumstances. >> my staff has of me to make sure something is clear. earlier you said you ordered the investigation, and later, you said susan ordered it. >> she asked the inspector general to investigate. i have designated the role of interacting. she did it. >> i want to make sure we do not have any inconsistency. our goal is to get the record accurate, and there will be mistakes. we want to make sure we know when they occur. with that we welcome the lady from the district of columbia. >> i appreciate this hearing.
9:17 pm
first, even members of the oversight committee can take a joke. with respect to the joke regarding my role on the committee that has direct oversight over gsa, i think the joke complemented me for my oversight role, because it essentially said norton is on the phone already with you with regards to miss use. >> your clock will begin now. but i would like to clarify when action should be taken, because mail with mr.- erickson, who on may 3, 2011, did issue an interim report.
9:18 pm
our purpose was to alert tsa to potential waste and abuse so they could take steps to avoid future issues. please be advised the investigation is ongoing and no personal action should be taken until you have received the final report. with respect to some notion that may be the officers of the agency or the a administration should have taken action, is it your of your -- your view is that action should not have been taken until april with a final report? >> i believe the e-mail is dated july 25, 2011. >> it is, but it says on may 3.
9:19 pm
>> we gave to the interim report. on may 17, we brees the administrator, and in july 25, reads in we briefed the administrator, and in july 25 -- the final reporto received from a cracked a final report on the western region conference is april 2. >> that is my question. nothing could have taken place until the final report. >> the e-mailed deals with a house off report as well. -- hats off to report as well. >> does it allude to both or only one? >> i believe he could use the
9:20 pm
two. >> what does this refer to in terms of personnel action? >> it refers to the western region conference report. >> that is my question. let me go to the next question. i am seriously concerned about whether we have a culture in the western region, whether we have gsa.lture in the ts one conference of this kind has outraged the public enough, but there were suggestions in your report but this was not an anomaly, but several events have taken place, but in 2006 and in 2008 there have been conferences with fairly lavish catering, but
9:21 pm
this was not an outsider but rather consistent. are you looking at the of the western region? in 2008 and in 2006, we have a culture that needs closer inspection beyond this particular conference. >> we are looking at conferences in region 9. there have been western regions. there is no western region, first of all. >> are we talking about the same thing? >> we are not. there are 10 regions, which would make it a 11. it appears regions 7, 8, 9, and
9:22 pm
tend not together to do a conference, and they did the conference every two years. as far as i know, there is no such thing as an eastern regions conference. it is only the western region. >> having looked at those conferences but were alluded to in 2008 and in 2006, or if not, and you have any intention to look at those to see whether our culture has developed or was developing in these regions in the western part of the united states? >> we are looking at conferences in region 9 right now. older western regions conference will be old.
9:23 pm
>> you have any notion there was a culture that needs to be examined and rooted out? that is what i am getting at. >> many of the witnesses say the western regions conference in las vegas was not materially different from the western regions. in new orleans, oklahoma, and lake tahoe. >> we have sent 23 additional letters to other agencies. the committee intends on investigating the practice of conferences, team building. additionally, i would like to make the record very clear. since other regions did not seem to have these conferences, the first question should be why does one need it. the second one that eggs the
9:24 pm
worst question in some ways, when i look at new orleans, if you were the western state, who would thing going to new orleans was the logical place to go, since you orleans was not in any of those regions? i think as we look at a pattern that began and continued through every administration since hoover, what we want to do is bring it to an end through this administration, but i think she makes a very good point, and we are going to be expensive in our meetings, perhaps even those paid for by the taxpayer expense so we can give them to each other. >> we go to the gentleman from ohio. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i was fascinated by your opening statement, because you had been
9:25 pm
to gsa during the clinton administration and return during the obama administration, but it was not the same as when you left. i believe you would have been joining an administration that have a completely different culture, a completely different culture than the bush administration. this is an administration that believes when it is taxpayers' dollars being spent, jobs are being created. that was the crux of the stimulus, and what i voted against because americans believe when taxpayer dollars are being spent, debt is being created. i have some examples of the spending, and you said you were not aware they were being paid for by the taxpayers. this is one example of spending under your leadership. it includes the conference logo,
9:26 pm
and everyone was given one of these. this was apparently a blackjack dealer's vest so everyone could feel they were in character when you get a conference. additionally, there is a directory with everybody's picture, and they are assigned roles. additional items were given to the people that were there, including a book on las vegas signed by mr. neely himself. the vest was made in china. they were given the other party favors while they were there. all taxpayer dollars spending, and they were given a commemorative coin. it is a commemorative coin commemorating the stimulus, a program most americans believe did not work.
9:27 pm
it is celebrating a program that did not create jobs in ohio, and we have not seen a turnaround in our economy, but the question i have is how much did these items cost, and were stimulus dollars being used for this? it would seem to me that we have a problem that all these items are being purchased and made from china, so we are stimulating china and not the united states. the second thing is what slush funds exist so that these types of money could be moved? who in the organization would ever have that type of authority to use taxpayer dollars to buy a withjack dealer's besvest
9:28 pm
than a vendor logo on it? under you, how is it something like this gets approved for expenditure? what types of funds were used to buy these things? what was your policy with respect to buying things made in america, since all these things were apparently bought elsewhere, including the t- shirts made in of salvador, and i would like mr. robinson to give us a commitment that he will tell us the source of these funds used to buy these, specifically in the gsa's and budget, how is it this kind of money could. laying around to be used in this manner? this is not someone at brazenly violating their authority. this is an issue of money and in a budgetary process being
9:29 pm
available to be moved elsewhere, when congress has a traditional amount of priorities, but the money should have been applied to in addition to reducing our national deficit? >> i am just as appalled as you are in. when i learned the extent of them and the nature of them, i began disciplinary action, some of which i cannot share at this point. i fired the people in the chain of command, and i resigned. >> i think you have a slush fund question. >> one other thing, the facts that you continue to say you do not want to interfere with the investigation by not approving a bonus is so outrageous everyone is shocked. would you assure us you will
9:30 pm
tell us how this money is available so we can stop this? >> i am happy to give that information to the committee about where these items were purchased. i understand one of the glaring problems we haven't the time is a that these were diffused into the regions. since
9:31 pm
they are about $20 apiece. we typically spend $1 apiece, is that right? six to $300? >> -- $6,300? >> yes, that is the total for the coins. i would have to go through the math. >> do you give out challenge coins? >> i have not done that. >> i am told that i will get a
9:32 pm
discount if we have one -- your face on one side and mine on the other. [laughter] mr. chairman, i want to thank you for your opening statement. this is not an opportunity for partisan exploitation. this is an opportunity for the oversight to look at an agency where something is dreadfully wrong. thank you for the way you began this hearing. mr. miller, you are the inspector general of gsa. how long have you been in that job? >> i was confirmed by the senate in july of 2005. >> between 2005 and when ms. johnson's office alerted to, were you ever aware of the fact that access spending and raucous
9:33 pm
behavior and inappropriate use of resources was going on in the agency anywhere? >> we always look for that, sir. >> i am specifically with talking about this type of -- this is not the first time this has happened. it happened in new orleans, it happened in other locations. did you discover that this kind of thing was going on? it came to a crescendo here. >> we rely on gsa employees to tell us. we did not have hot line complaints about this conference. i do commend the deputy administrator for bringing it to our attention. >> she did that at the direction of the administrator? is that your understanding? >> that is my understanding. we have the administrator here. >> i am just asking you what your understanding was.
9:34 pm
>> idea the deputy administrator as the alter ego of the administrator -- i view the deputy administrator as the alter ego of the administrator. >> the first time was when susan 0 loaded to the fact that we think something is wrong here? >> -- alerted you to the fact that we think something is wrong? >> she alerted us. we did not get to any hot line report on it. >> when were the events in question? >> october 2010. >> about a month and a half later. >> yes. >> did she indicate to you how she was made aware of this information? >> she said she had rumors -- had heard rumors and overheard conversations. >> it took about nine months, is
9:35 pm
that correct? >> we started in earnest when she brought the complaint forward. you do have to understand that there are a lot of documents to go through. part of the problem is the funds came from different sources. we had to identify funds on purchase cards, building operation funds, money budgeted -- >> is a complicated affair. >> it is. when you talk to witnesses in turning the of the proverbial -- turning over the proverbial stone, you find 50 morristown's. >> it took nine months. -- you find 50 morristown's. >> ms. johnson indicated that she was a little surprised it took that long. she indicated that there were many conversations and meetings between you about this and other matters, of course. did you have conversations with
9:36 pm
the administrator of about the length of time it was taking? were you given your interim reports as to what you were finding? >> i believe we had a few. she mentioned the regional administrator was appointed in region nine. in august of 2011, i briefed the regional administrator about the interim report. i advised her to get a handle on the regional commissioners travel. >> thank you. i only have 25 seconds. one of the critiques is there is too much autonomy for these regional offices and not enough top-down management. i wonder if the two of you would address that. >> i would agree that there needed to be more central control of these financial structures, yes.
9:37 pm
>> i agree as well. >> thank you, mr. chairman. " what is the highest ranking, highest-paid person in each of these 10 areas? when we talk about decentralized control, we're talking about relatively large amounts of people. what would be the highest-paid -- for example, what was his pay? what was their pay? >> i am sorry, congressman. i can see if i can give you the information. >> we appreciate things being centralized, but one of the questions is, do we have high ranking, high paid civil servants in these regions? if we're going to be pulling everything back because perhaps we are paying more with that we should for responsibility not met. >> my understanding is that in
9:38 pm
all the regions, the regional commissioners are paid more than the regional administrators. >> more than $100,000 tax cut significantly. >> i believe both of them are over that number. " the regional commissioners are career senior executives. they do pay quite a bit. the regional administrator protocol appointment at the g s- 15 level. quite a bit below. >> with whom the did you collaborate the development of your testimony that was submitted? did you collaborate on anybody in the development of your testimony? >> i wrote my testimony and i discussed it with my lawyer. >> anybody at the white house? >> no. >> why not to fire mr. neely?
9:39 pm
he is still being paid by the taxpayers. he is on administrative leave. this is somebody that took a conference and made it over $800,000. $75,000 on a bike building exercise. $2,000 parties. $6,000 for the stimulus ". -- coins. a top hud program but has -- a top hat problem that -- program that has fraud. why is this still an employee of the united states government? >> disciplinary action has begun against several individuals involved in planning and executing. >> why does it take so long?
9:40 pm
you were given this report in february, correct? wide -- what does it take to be fired from? the gsa? >> we have begun the process for several individuals involved in planning and execution of this prague -- conference. >> why did he get a bonus? didn't the president of the united states issue a pay freeze? >> i was not part of that decision. >> you are the chief of staff. >> i was not involved in the bonus. >> who was? >> the administrator. >> why were you giving out bonuses? >> the senior executives were entitled to bonuses under -- i do not believe the pay freeze affected those bonuses. >> the gentle lady just seem to
9:41 pm
say entitled. i thought they were possibly going to be granted. entitlement seems to be a question the gentleman may want to follow up on. >> i did not mean entitlement. >> i think you did mean entitlement. there are a lot of good federal employees that work hard. when you see this widespread abuse of money, and then you, as the former administrator, says they are entitled to it, there is where there is frustration. it is totally unacceptable. for the president of the united states to tell the american people, we have a pay freeze in place, it is totally unacceptable. let's look at the budget. is there anything wrong with this number that you see?
9:42 pm
$3.8 billion spent by the administration. these are outlays in the first three years. if there is anything wrong, please let me know. this is the last three years of the bush administration, the first three years of the obama administration. could you tell me about the what does it do? >> alows federal government employees and u.s. citizens to look at can access data about their government. >> when i type in, why doesn't come up blank? >> i do not know, sir. >> i am unfamiliar with the website. >> this is the disconnect. you are the chief of staff. you do not even know what it is.
9:43 pm
>> i believe the former administrators reference to data was about >> that is not what she said. that is terribly unacceptable. location solvers, the gsa employs people better couple time planning coordinators. is that correct? >> -- people that are full-time planning coordinators. is that correct? >> they were awarded a $12,000 finder's fee what are we hiring full-time people to be party planners? >> i do not understand that action either. that was one --
9:44 pm
>> i struggle to figure out what you do understand. you are the chief of staff. >> we now recognize the gentleman from kentucky for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i would like to commend you on this hearing and your opening marks -- remarks. this is reconstructive. i want to express my outrage at the subject under investigation, not just for myself, but for half of the 13,000 federal employees in my district. we have many very responsible public employees, federal employees, who are embarrassed by association because of these instances. i have a question about this idea of conferences. to the extent to which this practice may be common across
9:45 pm
government. this is not something that is held in every region, but you have any idea the number of conferences, internal conferences, held throughout the organization? >> i do not have a good sense of the numbers. i can talk about -- they included about five conferences over 26 months. >> 26 months. that is a frequent number. are there guidelines within gsa for conducting conferences? it is kind of ironic that you have the agency that is responsible for facilities, and you had to go to a private facility -- that is an example
9:46 pm
of government spending stimulating the economy, but probably not in the right way. >> there are various policies. per diem, how much people can spend when they travel, what can they be reimbursed for, yes, there are. >> would there be any rules regarding the things that went on here? the hiring of a mind reader, entertainment bling, seven years. are there any guidelines for those types of acquisitions? >> i am not familiar with direct guidelines about mind readers and commemorative coins. our senior execs should be operating under the common
9:47 pm
sense, and would be preserving their budgets for other things. >> you have been involved in government for quite a long time. are there rules and other agencies that you may be familiar with better more specific as to the conduct of internal conferences? >> i think the rules governing gsa and policies as they are to plan conferences with an eye to minimizing cost. in terms of minimizing cost, things like commemorative coins, would be impermissible. we do have a discussion of rules with in the final report. when it comes down to mind readers or motivational speakers, in terms of the report, we stayed away from the quality of -- and the quality
9:48 pm
judgments. we are not the experts in public building service. the rules to allow the motivational speaker. if he was mind reading or entertainment, that would not be permitted. >> in terms of the activities and the ancillary materials that were provided comment -- provided, there were violations of agency rules. >> yes. >> in terms of the procurement rules regarding the acquisitions. " congressman, one bidder to another bidder. that is as much against the rules -- >> gsa is involved in a lot of contracting. does your office have sufficient auditing capabilities to deal
9:49 pm
with the many other activities? >> we do all the auditing at gsa. we do not rely upon dcaa. my office has about 300 employees. we have 70 special agents who would interview individuals. i think they have done a tremendous job with this report. i think they moved at tremendous speed, often working 18-hour days and weekends. >> we now go to the gentleman from pennsylvania. >> to where we did thank you for calling the hearing. this is one of those unusual things. the same thing happened to me in northwest pennsylvania.
9:50 pm
we have a slide showing the mission statement. let me go through this. i am not blind to read from that. the mission -- i am not going to read from that. foster an effective sustainable transparent government to the american people. this is the vision part. when you go down to the third bullet point, a government that works better for the american people. sustainability and transparency. the former is for managing resources within the utmost care and an obsession with no waste. it goes down to strategic goals and it goes -- offer those solutions to other agencies. authorities -- as i look through
9:51 pm
this, there is no wonder that the american people have lost faith in the government. let me ask you something. who -- there were out least four placed on administrative leave. is that correct? >> regional commissioners, i think. " regional administrators. >> those are regional commissioners. >> they are on administrative leave? they're still being paid. >> i believe so. >> mr. neely is being paid. any idea what these folks make? >> i am happy to provide the exact numbers.
9:52 pm
>> what is the top of the scale? >> $170,000 range. >> i have to tell you, thank god that what happened in vegas did not stay in vegas. the disappointment of these taxpayers to know that the watchdogs, the people -- they had an obsession with no waste. to see this go on day after day in our government, asking people to give more of what they have, and dipping into what they have to support a government that wastes more and more of their money. i do not think anybody mind paying taxes if the money is well spent. but they resent the fact that a government that tells them they have to pay more of their fair share cannot come back anywhere. when you are in charge of it, you cannot even answer the
9:53 pm
questions, when did you know about it? what did you decide to do about it? who is the watchdog? if the watchdog is being fed so well, why do even care what goes on? it is so easy to spend somebody else's money. especially when you are not held accountable. it is absolutely ridiculous that the american people have to sit back and watch this. you have a great record of public service. i read your resume. this is very impressive. >> i was at the computer sciences corp. >> in december of 2008? you were on the presidential transition team. mr. robertson, tell me what you did. >> prior to the position i hold
9:54 pm
no, i was the associate minister for government-wide policy would then gsa. -- within gsa. i was the deputy working group lead on the presidential transition team. >> for somebody in the administration who talks about a clear and transparent government, a government that is more answering to the american taxpayers, as a guide to has only been here 14 months,thank god some of us are here now. you have some kind of a magic shield were you stay inside this bubble. to watch what is going on and watch those videos of what happened and knowing the people i represent in northwest pennsylvania work hard. some of them work to be owed
9:55 pm
jobs. -- two jobs. they watched their tax dollars being spent and wasted this way. it is a shame to have to listen to this and watch as we take effect. -- the fifth. it is pathetic. i cannot tell you how disappointed i am. >> we now go to the gentleman from massachusetts. >> the outrage is genuine and it is bipartisan. the notion that the gsa should act like a private corporation. the shareholders seem powerless to do much about it. taxpayers should be upset about that because somebody is writing it off as a business expense.
9:56 pm
100% of this wasted money is on the taxpayer. i have a lot of government employees in my area that work hard every day. they work honestly and i do not waste any money. they have not had a raise in many years. these situations are just ridiculous. it goes deeper and more systematic than one individual. you were nominated by president obama? >> i was nominated early in 2009. >> at that time, the position of the administrator, was a vacant? >> there was no confirmed administrator. >> there had not been for a number of years, right? >> may be about a year and a half. >> before you renominated?
9:57 pm
how long between the time that you were nominated and when the senate voted on your position? >> i had my hearings in june of 2009 and that was voted unanimously in february 2010. >> nine months. what was the delay? >> certification, the senate did not entertainment -- sir, the senate did not entertain. >> you had worked as the chief of staff at the same agency in the 1990's. was this activity going on in the 1990's? tell me what the agency looked like in the 1990's. >> the agency was full of hard working people delivering goods and services to the american people. it was an agency that was just emerging from the legislative change for its mandate. in the mid-1990's, it no longer was allowed to be a monopoly provider for the government.
9:58 pm
the element of competition was introduced into gsa. that was a tremendous improvement and that it forced gsa to think about what it was delivering. it was a very exciting time. >> i want to read what you had in your written statement. >> a quarter of the executive positions were empty, strategy was nonexistent. labor relations for acrimonious. the information technology infrastructure was inadequate. the federal acquisition institute was atrophied, policies lacked focus. this was what you found different about the agency from the first time you served there? >> yes. >> that is from a lack of leadership.
9:59 pm
when you were finally sworn in, what did you start doing it? >> i worked very hard. the first thing was to try to begin to fill the executive slots. we need the leaders in those positions, and we needed them quickly. >> who would've been responsible for knowing the kind of behavior we are here about was occurring? but the chain of command around this conference would have -- is a matrix. it would have -- it would have been the regional commissioner reporting of to the commissioner of the public buildings service. the regional commissioner reports to the regional administrator. there was no regional administrator there. >> he was watching himself. >> yes. that regional administrator reported into the senior
10:00 pm
counsel. >> did you set about to go in to replace those people? >> we were filling the administrator at slots, yes. absolutely. >> it is hard to run an agency when nobody is watching anybody else, and there is no oversight. it is hard to run an agency when nobody is watching anybody else and there is no oversight. it strikes me as incredible. when this happened, and someone on your staff report it to mr. miller, is that the first time you are aware this was going on? >> he gave the power point when i learned of the extent that. that is when it hit me. >> no one told you this happened in new orleans in 2008 and for a number of years leading up to this? >> no, i did not know about that. >> thank you. we now go to the gentleman from
10:01 pm
oklahoma, somebody who understands budgets very well. >> thank you all for being here. unemployment in the nation was 9.6%. we are in the process -- gsa was in the process of putting a stimulus dollars totaling five. 85 -- 5.85 billion. there were conferences in las vegas that had received tarp money at the same time gsa is holding a conference in las vegas at this time. i have gone back through the history. this behavior had gone on for a while. i went back four years before and noticed in the oklahoma city conference, $323,000 was spent.
10:02 pm
in the vegas conference, -- to say the previous conferences like oklahoma city and new orleans -- they are not. there was something that was happening that was unique and it was dialing up with incredible speed. you have an incredible career. i mean that in all sincerity. i cannot imagine the incredible frustration on the federal side, of going through the process of people you know should be dismissed, but instead, you have resigned. some of the people most culpable are still there, doing long, drawn-out process of appeals. what do we need to fix in dealing with federal hiring when this kind of stuff comes up that we can work through a process judiciously, because there are great federal employees who work
10:03 pm
through a judicious process where we can clear the house of people who give the federal government a bad name? >> i will, thoughtful policy discussion about that. i am not sure what i would suggest. there is due process for employees. i appreciate that. there needed to be two officials involved so there is not preemptory decision-making. i would yield to the experts in the personnel management organization. >> i understand. you resign. your office was the office that started the investigation. this would not come to light -- come to light, as your office start it. you resign. people that were directly there, making decisions, going through fraudulent contracts, they are still there. >> yes. i resigned. yes, i believe they are still there. >> let me mention a couple of things that are jarring.
10:04 pm
one of them i find very meaningful. try to do charity work with this team-building experience. the frustration is, $75,000 team building experience was designed to give away 24 bikes to kids from the boys and girls club. instead of doing this out of charity, they used taxpayer funds to provide charity event, and then used taxpayer funds to provide an ice-cream party for the children when they picked them up. everyone could feel good, but it was not their money. it was not their time. they were paid to be on the clock to do that. the federal taxpayer paid for the bikes. everybody else felt good. that is one of those moments that we look at and say, where have we gone? doing charity work as a federal employee has to come from the
10:05 pm
hardworking american taxpayer rather than engaging from it. the other side is the contract in issue with the sun company in the hotels, not to mention the charity work directly violates gsa policy. it is in direct violation. the sound contract gets preferential treatment over another company. they get free rooms. the hotel contract was negotiated offline separately so we could have additional food. we did not pay enough for this. this is the kind of stuff that make people in my district furious. they come to our office and say, we're trying to get a federal contract that looks like a sweetheart deal is done for some company and no one can validate it. how we start clearing the deck on this so we have fair competition, whether in gsa or someone else? how do we route this stuff out? >> i believe we have a good
10:06 pm
oversight process. i appreciate the inspector general is there. it was appalling to me. i felt grateful that someone had the capability to do this investigation. that is a piece of it. as alluded to by some other questions, i think leaving agencies without steady leadership is to lead an agency hanging. although there were able interim administrators, no one had the clout of being confirmed and being able to move in. i think there are a number of different things that could be addressed. >> i thank the gentleman. we did look it up. people could make as much as $109,000, which means they're paid more the members of congress, perhaps we could consider those people on necessary if you are centralizing control. >> they are paid much more than i am.
10:07 pm
>> noted. we go to mr. walsh. >> thank you. ms. johnson, without getting bogged down in to conduct reviews vs. performance reviews, why did you give the $9,000 bonus? >> i gave that bonus because i was focused on performance. the recommendation came from the buildings commissioner, who was the direct budgeting supervisor. >> let me ask it another way. if you could take that bonus back, if you could go back in time and not approve that bonus, would you do that? >> i would certainly like to avoid these questions. yes. >> do you wish you had not approved it? >> everything in retrospect is hard to understand. at the time, i was expecting the
10:08 pm
inspector general's report. >> i appreciate that. right now, if you could, do you wish you had not approved that bonus? >> i am not sure how i can answer that, knowing what i know about all of the rules. >> let me move on. my colleagues on both sides have rightfully focused on how did this happen, who knew what, what procedures were in place that let this happen, when did it happen, all important questions in an investigation. what eats at me is the why. why did something like this happen? many of these examples have been pointed out. the $6,000 commemorative coins. did mr. neely think that was his money? >> i have no idea. >> do you think it is your money? >> that is why i was so
10:09 pm
appalled. that is why i resigned. i'm a taxpayer. it is the taxpayers' money. >> the $8,000 spent on your books. do you believe mr. neely thought that was his money? >> i don't know what he was thinking. >> do you think it is your money? whose money is that? >> the taxpayers' money. >> the $130,000 spent on six scouting missions to visit las vegas, did you think mr. neely thought it was his money? >> i have no idea. >> do you think it is your money? >> i believe it is the taxpayers' money. >> do you think that $130,000 was your money? >> i believe that money belongs to the taxpayers. >> do you think that was your money? >> i believe it is the taxpayers' money. >> food and drink for the conference, $145,000.
10:10 pm
mr. robertson, do you think mr. neely truly thought that was his money? >> i don't know what he was thinking. do you think that was your money? >> it clearly belonged to the taxpayers. >> do you think mr. neely thought it was his money? >> i do not know what he was thinking. >> do you think it was your money? >> no, it clearly belongs to the taxpayers. >> i don't know you. i respect your service. why even joke about of using taxpayer dollars? why do that? all my colleagues have said, rightfully, everyone knows what the american people are going through right now. you imagine that for $6,500, the average growing taxpayer could find something to do with that? for $8,000 for these a souvenir your books. do you think the average man or woman in any one of our districts today would know what
10:11 pm
to do with $8,000? >> again, i absolutely apologize for my remarks. i clearly recognize there were inappropriate. >> what made you feel like you could joke about it to begin with? why? culture -- why did mr. neely feel he could do what he did? would he have felt that he could have abused his own dollars like that? >> i don't know what mr. neely would have felt. >> mr. johnson, i know you appreciate this. it is not your money. this is what has the american people so worked up. $8,000 is a lot of money. $6,500 goes a very long way for
10:12 pm
most families today. i would argue that the invisible man, if he had thought this was his money, we would not be here today. i yield back. thank you. >> i thank the gentleman. we have not been able to get a clarification, whether it is 6 or 10 round trips with family in some cases, costing over $100,000 to find out what vegas was like. we go to the gentleman from another region, the gentleman from texas. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i generally applaud the committee's selection of witnesses. you have left out one important witness in that hearing. that is a mind reader. maybe he could tell us what some of these people were thinking when they did that. i do have a couple of comments and questions that hopefully you all could clear up for me. i am really concerned about a pattern that we're seeing, not
10:13 pm
just in the gsa, but in the government about a lack of common sense, it's not being more money. we should have a higher respect for the taxpayers' dollars than for your own dollars. they are giving this to us in trust to spend for them. you look at what is happening in the news today, you look at this convention, you look at the secret service agents. that fiasco happened. you look at some of the things this committee is investigating. lack of common sense. the freddie and fannie bonuses. i would like to ask the gentlemen from the inspector general's office, do you see this pervasive in your agency, or pervasive in the government? gsa agents that i dealt with personally in the district, helping out with some constituents, have been great people. are we developing in the gsa or
10:14 pm
the government in general a culture of lack of common sense or in difference about taxpayers' dollars? i priceline hotels. >> all agencies are concerned to protect taxpayer dollars and to get the best value. i think the question was asked, why did mr. neely do this? we cannot get into his head. one reason was that he could. there was a lack of accountability. he was the regional commissioner and acting administer. >> if we have an attitude of, let's see how we can sneak in, or just out right to ignore the rules, the money will continue to fly out the door at a fast and furious pace. >> unfortunately, people know the rules. they know how to skirt the rules. >> that is disappointing. i want to take a second to point out that this is happening in
10:15 pm
other government agencies. we need to know about it. this committee has a website. there's a big orange but in there that says, whistle blower. we need to stop this and we need to stop the culture of over- spending in our government. what we have got to do is take rudy giuliani's attitude. start with the little things. we have got to remember, it is not your money. it is the taxpayers' money. you owe them the highest duty with respect to protecting that money. i will go back to the former administrator. i want to commend you for taking responsibility for that and resigning. i wish you had a chance to clean up a little bit more before you were able to go. i do think this is something this committee and the conference meets to look at. how government employees can linger on and on and on, basically on a paid vacation, when they are on administrative leave.
10:16 pm
we are getting no value for. the money is going out the door. do you have any comments on that? >> not really. you have heard my thoughts in my statements. i think we certainly were initiating disciplinary action. we needed to it here to do process. that is what we were working with. we are working diligently with the process we had. >> i understand everybody is entitled to due process. one of the reasons people choose to work for the government is to get away from employment at will. you have some rights with respect to the government. i am thinking we need to look, especially in cases of clear misconduct, we need to find a way to expedite this process. pardon me for asking this question, but this is a game of politics. some people have asked me, your resignation was time with the
10:17 pm
day that this report came out. was that coordinated with the white house or the president's campaign? did you talk to anybody about that? >> it was certainly not coordinated with the campaign. i did inform the white house. we were in communication with the white house. they were aware i was resigning from my appointment. >> did the white house ask you to resign? >> they did not. i chose to resign. >> i commend you on having done the honorable thing. thank you for your public service. i am sorry you have to leave on this sour note. thank you. >> with the gentleman yield? >> a quick follow-up. you knew this report was coming. you had 11 months between a scathing preliminary and the final. resigned on the date cannot. when did you decide that he would resign? when did you first know that this report would look the way it did? >> i knew when i received the
10:18 pm
draft report it look that way because i had no quarrel. >> you had 11 months warning. >> no, 45 days. from the time they give us the draft -- >> 60 days. >> someplace in there. i did not contest it. i have no reason to. i -- we -- part of what we worked through, because i took the role of running our response myself, is understanding what our personnel rules were and what our legal positions were. as that unfolded, it became clear to me that we needed to do something -- we needed to make a strong statement about how this was so appalling. i decided to resign. i finally came to the decision in my own head about 34 days before resigned.
10:19 pm
i had thought about it for the entire six weeks. >> thank you. >> the gentleman from new hampshire is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. want to continue on this line of questioning. you said over several days you thought about resigning. >> the thought entered my head right away. was this something i needed to resign over? i worked my way through with the discipline was for the various people involved, what other actions we could take, but i came -- and was ready to sit down and write my resignation about three days before. >> did you consult with your chief of staff on that? >> yes. he understood my thinking. yes. >> what was your position in 2007? >> in 2007? it depends on what time. i held two jobs. >> what were the two? >> in the u.s. and a, this body
10:20 pm
of the congress. i was a legislative coordinator in the senate. then i joined the campaign for then-senator obama. >> legislative coordinator for a senator? went from working for senator obama to them working on the presidential campaign, to then working on transitioning, to then going to gsa, to then being chief of staff. >> after about 18 months. >> from lc to chief of staff. that is great. congratulations. at what point did you talk to ms. johnson about her resignation? she said she had talked with you about resigning. when did you speak with her? >> she told me she was thinking about it that some point during the development of our response. i don't recall the day. >> can you give me a month?
10:21 pm
the first time you talked about it? >> it was between february and april. i believe it was in march. >> who did you talk to at the white house about it? >> nobody. >> you did not convey in writing or verbally to anyone that there is a consideration of a resignation? >> no. to the best of my recollection, i do not -- >> to the best of your recollection. >> to the best of my recollection, i did not talk about the resignation. >> you did communicate something to the white house? >> to the best of my recollection, i did not communicate anything to the white house. >> did anyone from the white house talk to you in writing or verbally about the thought for the idea of mrs. johnson resigning? >> to the best of my recollection, no. >> mr. miller, you said earlier in your testimony that it was abnormal.
10:22 pm
i don't recall the words you used. it was not the norm. >> unusual. >> thank you. why did you provide this preliminary information? >> a provided it to the administrator may 3, 2011, so that gsa could take steps to prevent future waste. i am reading from ms. johnson's written testimony that was a medic. we finally received -- let me back up. >> you name the four people that were in that meeting. according to testimony, you are part of the meeting. >> yes. >> in your questioning with the chairmans at the beginning of the meeting, he stated, "i was aware of a power point slide, but i did not see it."
10:23 pm
in your written testimony, so maybe you want to clarify, they shared these findings with the four of us, i believe the inspector general briefed her with the power point, but you're saying you never sought. i want to be clear. you saw that back in may during that briefing? >> i have to apologize. but must be because i'm 59 years old. i have no memory of seeing it. this is based on my memory. if i could see my schedule and think about what meeting was in, i might be able to recall it. right now, i cannot recall. >> the last point i want to get to is the rays of mr. neely. i have this e-mail, certainly after you and others were briefed about this incident. this circumstance.
10:24 pm
"i spoke to bob yesterday afternoon. he is recommending -- achieving more results in leasing than anyone else. i can support that if the messages that clear. next year, people have to have good collaboration/people skills. i have made an adjustment in a couple of the cases this year. it has to be in the message like a fire siren. he was acting r.a. forever and a day." that was sent from you regarding his $9,000 in -- i find it a little shocking that that would be the only thing we would have, the only correspondence we would have. it looked like he signed two things. r.a. forever and a day.
10:25 pm
secondly, he is achieving more results in leasing than anyone else. is there any kind of guideline or documentation that someone has to go through to determine if there are measurable outcomes and objectives that someone at this level is meeting in order to receive a bonus? >> the process involves the performance review board. i believe they had a fair amount of documentation. the deputy administrator was briefing me. she was briefing me fairly regularly. we sit right next to each other. she was informing me of their thinking and where they were wrestling with a recommendation where they were pretty straightforward. there was a lot of dialogue. >> do you agree he should gotten this $9,000 bonus? >> the other congressmen was asking what i would do in hindsight. i still am not sure how to think
10:26 pm
about the two different expectations on the are around assessment performance and conduct, and how much i would have interfered with a conduct a review that i considered very serious, if i had moved in a different direction with the performance process and made that less independent. >> thank you. i yield back. >> we now go to the gentle man from south carolina. >> thank you. have you made a referral to the united states attorney's office? >> to the department of justice, yes. i hope it is a different group than a group that handles fast and furious. you made recommendations for criminal charges, or just, fyi? >> we recommended criminal charges.
10:27 pm
>> all right. mr. chairman, the need for a hearing like this epitomizes our fellow citizens frustration with government. they are absolutely convinced that we spend their money differently from the way we would spend our own, and they are exactly correct. the rest of america cannot comprehend the $44 breakfast. they are pouring generic brand cereal while you are eating a $44 breakfast. the rest of america would never conceive of a $7 mini sandwich. neither would you, if you're spending your own money. pocket't go out of your and buy commemorative coins. i don't know anyone who does
10:28 pm
that. we don't hesitate to spend taxpayer money on a trinket like that. giving bicycles to indigent children is a wonderful idea. i hate that you rob yourself of the satisfaction of knowing what it feels like to do it yourself instead of spending someone else's money to do it. the ostensible purpose of this hearing was to exchange ideas. alexander graham bell had this marvelous invention called a telephone. or, better yet, video conferencing. the notion that you have to spend $800,000 to exchange ideas is laughable, and perhaps criminal. the part that goals me the most is the hypocrisy of gsa not even
10:29 pm
following its own damn rules. you are so quick to make everyone else follow the rules, and you cannot follow your own rules. you have any event player on staff. that will come as quite a surprise to most taxpayers. what will come as more of a surprise is the fact that you did not even use him. you paid somebody else to plan the event despite the fact you have yvette players at taxpayers' a salary. -- event planners at taxpayers' salary. gsa has to send 15 scouts to las vegas to check out a hotel. do you not see the outrage in that? mr. robertson? do you see it? >> absolutely. this conference was outrageous.
10:30 pm
>> well, i am not going to be as self congratulatory as of the people are. i think the fact we're having a hearing is a loss. most people don't need a hearing to know that you don't spend other people's money the way money was spent at this that it was spent at this conference. we do not need a letter of recommendation from the inspector general. we do not need a reminder that you cannot negotiate a discount because the u.s. government decided to have a contract with a hotel. that is criminal. a mind reader? my guess is they will not need a mind reader to find out that the american public has lost conference -- confidence in government. i want indictments.
10:31 pm
that is a great way to get people's attention, indictment. not a memo, an indictment. i went through your report and i wrote, what is the penalty for doing what you found they did. what is the penalty for a discount on a per se for your personal use because -- on a per se for your personal use? what is the penalty for tipping off a competitor? that sounds criminal to me. mr. chairman, well this was being planned and executed, i was working at a small da's office in south carolina.
10:32 pm
we had to furlough a secretary who was making $20,000 a year. we started a fund of the of our own pockets to pay for birthday present. -- out of our own pockets to pay for birthday presents. we never thought about using taxpayer money. it is a sacred trust. instead of a team building exercise, you might want to investigate a trust building exercise. you have lost it. >> that concludes our first round. the gentleman's out rate is a bipartisan reflection. there are a few things that were not covered. i recognize myself. mr. miller, exhibit 2, a letter we have, although she was the
10:33 pm
original cravaack tour that caused your investigation to begin, she writes, ruth cox, "wanted to know why the report had to be made public since she was told otherwise. are you familiar with this? >> yes, i am. >> i appreciate your completeness. how do you explain anybody considering this would be retained as private? particularly after such a long time of us not knowing about it. >> i cannot explain that. we always intended for this to be public. it is of such magnitude and of rage it had to be made public. -- outrage it had to be made public.
10:34 pm
>> we regular received briefings from ig's. the budget exists for a lee is on the with this branch. i am concerned. you have done a wonderful job in this report. it is going to change a lot of things. if you had to do it again, when would you have briefed this committee for oversight? >> we wanted to nail down all of the facts before we put the report to print. i am receiving your message that we should come to you sooner, much sooner than we have a draft report. the process was we wanted to get something together quickly to when the administrator and others -- to warn the administrator and others. we did that quickly. it took a long time to nail down
10:35 pm
the facts. every possible way. we got a final report to her in february. she requested an extension of 30 days. i am happy to talk with you about when we should bring these reports to you. these are reports. they do contain a criminal conduct. >> i appreciate the criminal conduct. one of the concerns we have is we need to know from an oversight standpoint earlier. i will say this on the record to the 70o all of the ig's, plus, it is my intention to work with the ranking member to produce a guidance letter that would spell out expectations. if the expectations were, we are going to try to be consistent with what occurs. if that is something we do not
10:36 pm
see, i will also draft legislation with the ranking member to try to put it into law. it has not been a problem in the past. good work, i am not making any remarks on the quality of your work. it is unusual for us not to receive a heads up much sooner, particularly when it would have allowed us -- the 23 letters i sent to other agencies -- to begin looking at the effects of so much money. we work closely. we were monitoring the through the funding a plethora of areas in which so much money could be misspent. the former ig and this committee worked constantly on this. while we were doing that, this would have been helpful. that is the only criticism. i am going to go with mr.
10:37 pm
robertson. you with the liaison to the white house. i know the word administration versus white house obverses president -- house versus president gets used. in your role as the communicator, representing the white house liaison, that role in which your job was to communicate, to have no surprises, nothing unknown to the people of the white house, political and and political, would you normally have reported something like this? >> the role of the liaison is two on board appointees -- to on-board appointees. >> when you worked for senator obama, i am sure your chief of staff told you, no surprises.
10:38 pm
>> i do not remember having that conversation. >> you would have kept something like this, you would have kept a secret? would you have told the chief of staff? >> i do not know how to answer a hypothetical question. >> this is not all that hypothetical. all of us, we have the same situation that senator obama has. when you work for the member of congress, it is a given that the one thing you do not do is let somebody be surprised with a scandal. you still have your job. you are still a political appointee at the highest level. you a problem making less than $109,000 -- you are probably making less than $179,000. during the time that you really is on, would there not be an expectation that you would
10:39 pm
inform people at the white house? >> during my time, i executed that duties assigned to me by my administrator at the time. >> the word liaison does not mean anything? >> the primary duty is to on- board into agencies and departments. >> the administration does not use liaisons to communicate back and forth to keep staff informed about things that may be significant? >> my role was to on-board appointees. >> when did you first become aware of this scandal? >> i had second hand knowledge in may following the briefing given to the administrator. it was mentioned to me that this was an ongoing investigation. >> since may of last year, more
10:40 pm
than a year, have you talked to anyone in the administration who may have communicated it to anybody inside the white house or related areas? >> do you mind repeating the question? >> it is a broad question. once you knew this terrible scandal, did you talk to your friends or other people employed either by the office of the president or related areas within the administration? did you communicate this to anyone? >> i communicated it to the robert byrd people. >> who are they? >> -- to the appropriate people. >> who are they? >> with my ongoing work, i sometimes communicate to the white house about the policy priorities inside gsa as well as
10:41 pm
any issues within the agency. >> to the best of your recollection, when did you first report this to those people? >> to my recollection, the first mention i made about the ongoing investigation which i was not assigned -- the deputy administrator and a senior counselor were assigned to this investigation. after becoming aware of the existence of the investigation, i mentioned it to a white house er among other things. >> that is a pretty good answer. the word when was in my question. >> that was shortly after the may 2011 time frame. >> you hear about it in may. you report it promptly.
10:42 pm
>> i would say it was sometime after may. >> who was the staff member? >> it was a member of the council who worked with on a regular basis. >> i said to. >> it was a lawyer in the white house counsel's office. kim harris. >> i did not want to take this long there. we do have another panel. i do appreciate the member's longer than would be prudent. >> thank you. mr. johnson. i am sitting here and listening and watching. i am trying to figure out some issues. first of all, i know you are an
10:43 pm
honorable woman. i know you have a reputation for excellence. i want to go back -- tell us why you resigned? this is not a trick question. a lot of times, when something happens, although a person at the top does not feel that it was their fault, they know they were in charge. sometimes, you will hear a president say, it was under my watch, i take full responsibility. on the other hand, some may feel they could have done something different. that they, in other words, could have stopped things from happening. or that they did something to cause these things to happen. i am wondering, why did you resign? >> yes.
10:44 pm
i resigned because i wanted to step aside so the gsa could have new leadership going forward. the nature of the conference, the coarseness, the video tapes, the impact it was having disturbed me. i wanted to, as much as i could, reassure the american people that somebody was taking it seriously. through my resignation i could send the message that this is unacceptable and it is not the norm. >> listening to the way you came in and the delay in your confirmation and when you came in and what you came into, and then i watch you. you said something you probably do not realize he said. he said it twice.
10:45 pm
-- you said it twice. not in response to a question. you volunteered this. i think may have been the chairman who was asking you. the comment was made about the salaries of certain employees. it said, they make more than the administrator. it said it twice. -- you said it twice. it seemed upset about it. it seems like there are things going on at tsa that are out of control. in other words, the administrator comes in and there are things that have been going on. i look at what we read about what mr. neely has been accused of doing. i do not want to get into that. i am wondering, are there things
10:46 pm
you felt you had no control over? the reason this is so significant is because, i believe the chairman is as concerned as i am about getting to the reform that is necessary. it is almost like, the administrator is here. there is something happening down there. when i read the facts of what went on here, a fund that you can almost pull out $1 million to hold a conference? so that people can talk about this money as if it is their money? the chairman made a good point. they can use it for whatever they want. have we become -- do we need some kind of different control? you might want to jump in here
10:47 pm
mr. miller. if we are going to get to the bottom of this, we can accuse one administration and another administration. if we do not get to exactly controlling what is going on, we are going to never solve this problem. 10 years from now, there will be people sitting up here. they will not be talking about a $900,000 event, they will be talking about a two million- dollar event. help us. you have written this wonderful report. am i reading you right? you seem like, i have watched your expressions, this is what it seems like you are saying, this really pleases me off, --
10:48 pm
pisses me off, that you had these people who did the stupid things. that i and paste. that i did not have the position to control it. >> i appreciate that. i alluded to what i do think is one of the issues that i would welcome attention to. to be sure there is leadership in place. that they are not left in interim status for too long. it is a large, complicated organization. it takes time for people to learn the organization. i already knew a certain amount about it. the leadership aspect is an important part of the story. secondly, with any large organization, you do need -- you do need good management oversight. i tasked various people with
10:49 pm
oversight. there was a breakdown in the organization around that, where i trusted, i needed to confront the fact that i had trusted and it had yielded this. i resigned as a result. >> did you have a comment? >> some of these issues, i know he is going to address you in a few minutes. i applaud him in taking stronger action over budget. one reason they spend this money was there budget -- they did not have accountability. they could move money from the operations fund into a conference indies purchase cards. he will tell you that the cfo will be able to see those transactions.
10:50 pm
the regents had a lot of power and autonomy. i know he is taking steps to have the deputy administrator take more active control and management of the region. i do not want to steal his thunder. >> let me say this. i agree with the chairman. giving us some kind of heads up. sometimes, who is the fellow in charge? you mentioned his name. earl said something i will never forget. he said, try to operate in a way where the rules did not get violated. in other words, he tried to be in front of the train instead of waiting for things to happen. it is helpful for us.
10:51 pm
we would love to have information on this one. we could have done some things, brought some people in and said, how do we make sure this does not happen instead of making sure it happens? we probably could have saved some people -- we could have saved some money. we could have been able to save some embarrassment. the last thing i want to say is, this will only take a second. a lot of times, groups, i am telling -- sang this to ourtsa employees, a lot of times groups are judged by their weakest link. it is said. people look at what a few people do in that group and they judge the whole group. i want to say that we have a lot of great federal employees. you know that. they are doing a of a job.
10:52 pm
-- a hell of a job. i did not want them to be punished by this. people collect money for the coffee. they are spending their own coffee money. they do all of those little things. it is coming out of their own pocket. many of them have taken -- they cannot get a pay raise for two years. they are put on furloughs. i do not want the public to judge our federal employees by these weak links. i want to thank you very much. thank you. >> thank you. as we close this panel of like to let mr. miller know we will be back -- this panel i would like to let mr. miller know we will be back. we are unlikely to ask the back
10:53 pm
in the same setting. your experience here, we may ask if he would help us as we begin to sort out some of the frustrations you saw between political appointees. it might have a hard time recruiting senior individuals. and of course, some of your frustration that may exist as to what it would take to eliminate a member of civil service after egregious behavior. >> i would be happy to be of any support i can be. >> we would make sure it is not here again. >> thank you. >> with that, we will take a short recess before the second panel. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2012] >> zero second panel -- our second panel. he was kind enough to call me
10:54 pm
after his appointment. we look forward to your opening statement. in light of the first panel, your comment on changes you anticipate. we recognize you for five minutes. >> good afternoon. >> i apologize. pursuant to the rules, all members will be sworn. would you please rise? they swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give would be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? let the witness -- let the record show he entered in the affirmative. >> good afternoon. i'm the acting administrator of the u.s. general services administration. i appreciate the opportunity to come before the committee today. first and foremost, i want to state that the abuse outlined in the inspector general's report
10:55 pm
is an outrage and a difficult to the goals of the administration. the report detailed -- just as importantly, those responsible violated rules of common sense, the spirit of public service, and the trust the american taxpayers have placed in us. i speak for the majority of staff when i say we are shocked and disappointed by these actions. we have taken strong action against those who are responsible. we will continue to do so where per bit. i intend to uphold the highest standards -- where appropriate. i intend to uphold the highest standards. if we find irregularities, i will engage the inspector general. as indicated in the joint letter that bryan miller and i sent to all staff, we expect an employee
10:56 pm
who sees fraud or abuse to report it. we want to build a partnership with the ig that will ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. there will be no tolerance for employees who violate or disregard these rules. i believe this is critical. we owe it to the american tax payers and also to the many employees who work hard, follow the rules, and deserve to be proud of the agency for which they work. we have also taken steps to improve oversight. already, i have canceled all future conferences. i have also canceled 35 conferences, saving a million dollars. i have suspended hats off and it demanded reimbursement for private parties. i have cancelled most travel
10:57 pm
agency-wide. i am centralizing budget authority. i have determined oversight for regional offices to make them more accountable. i look forward to working in partnership with this committee and making sure there is accountability so we can restore the trust of the american people. i hope that in so doing, gsa can focus on saving taxpayers money by officially procuring supplies and real estate and disposing of unneeded government property. we believe there has rarely been a time of greater need for these services. there is a value to a single agency dedicated to this work. we need to make sure we get back to basics and conduct this work better than ever. our commitment is to a public service, i would do the, and our nation, and not to conferences,
10:58 pm
awards, or parties. the an acceptable and illegal activities at the western regions conference stand in direct contradiction to the goals of this agency. i am committed to ensuring we take whatever steps necessary to hold responsible parties accountable and make sure this never happens again. we need to focus on the basics, streamlining the work of the federal government. i look forward to working with the committee moving forward. i welcome the opportunity to answer any questions at this time. >> thank you. i recognize myself. do you know if the administration plans on putting you up for confirmation? >> i have not talked to anyone. >> i appreciate that. i want to make sure the record is clear. the earlier panel made it clear that a series of acting
10:59 pm
administrators was part of the lack of control that led to johnson receiving an agency that was already in trouble. hopefully, omp and opm, it is all being heard. i appreciate that you embraced the number of recommendations. would you have an exception to any of the recommendations from the inspector general, realizing that mr. johnson had already embraced all of the recommendations? >> we met on the first day to talk about the report and about building a strong report going forward. >> the inspector general made us aware that, in his answers to his questions, that there were ongoing investigations, including ones that fall more in the nature of corruption, kickbacks, bribes, would you
11:00 pm
commit to ensure that the chairman and ranking member be informed to understand the gravity of the events, if not all the details? >> to the extent i can do that, i would be happy to work with the committee on those issues. >> we would appreciate that. mywhat i cannot do is deny the possibility of looking for fundamental changes in your agency in the proper amount of time, and we would like to make sure we do not have to years of time go by without that. you were previously confirmed, so the expectation is if you promptly put in doubt, it will be promptly confirmed again. you have listened to the testimony of the previously
11:01 pm
panel for two hours. do you feel you will be able to resolve the issues and your predecessor was unable to resolve? you have confidence in the team you now have in place? >> i intend to conduct a top to bottom. i have to have confidence, but i also have to have demonstrated and make sure that this the way we should go forward. there were serious gaps in what took place. >> you have a fairly large number of political appointees that work for you. when you were appointed, were
11:02 pm
you given the fall of ability to clean house to determine those you would keep and those you would ask to replace? >> i was given full latitude to make general decisions. >> my question is more nuanced. the president has placed a number of appointees. were you given the ability to retain or dismiss those individuals you find not to meet standards necessary going forward to meet this and that it does not happen again. >> i never had a discussion, but i did ask if i was going to have full authority as we structured the agency going forward, and i was given assurances we would hear a good >> your predecessors showed a considerable frustration seemingly into
11:03 pm
areas. s. in 2 area the political appointees who made significantly less. you share that frustration? >> i need to understand the gsa structure desnthe we do. i understand the nature of her frustration, but i would like to know why we have the structure we have and see if there are ways we can make it better. >> has been gsa been successful in recovering from individuals who received benefits? either the individuals who made the decisions or those who accepted them? >> we began that process late
11:04 pm
last week, so i do not believe we have received any money at this time. >> how much are you expecting? >> right now we sought reimbursement for the private parties. we also have the contractor who charge of four hotel rooms when they were are actually getting hotel rooms. i want to work closely and see how much we can get back. >> our understanding is $100,000 was spent. one of the most egregious portions was the 10 trips including luxury hotels visited by individuals and their families. will you seek to get any of that money back by individuals who have their vacations paid for by taxpayers?
11:05 pm
>> i will try to the extent they are recoverable. >> if you find you cannot recover because statutes does not allow it to reform it, because one of the reforms we want to do is make sure you are empowered when people receive something they are not entitled to. >> i will commit to working with the committee and sharing where i have succeeded and where i have less success. >> you are inheriting an organization that had other problems. some of the others worked on it. they have been frustrated for a long time that there is this huge amount of waste in management and disposal in federal property.
11:06 pm
that is not the subject of this hearing, but it will be subject to individual and joint hearings, so i hope you will be prepared as quickly as possible to address those issues, up acause they are going to bee billion dollar concern to us. lastly, we have been able to get a pretty good production of documents. he has been very cooperative. would you also commit to making sure we have documents organized ?ursuant to our requeste >> we have provided 50,000 documents. the initial request cayman last week, so we have been working to try to provide the committee with all the documents and we have to. >> for would like this to be an
11:07 pm
example of how it does not take months or years curiosa -- months or years. i recognize the ranking member of. >> i hope we can bring him back for some periodic checkups us to where they are with regards to what they are doing, because i want to make sure we stay on top of this. >> i have no doubt we will have several hearings going forward. >> you shared your plan to review the previous conferences was controversial, of a program that now awarded a electronic cameras and ipod to employees. i understand you also closed all
11:08 pm
of your award programs. is that correct, >> all other similar programs of which money could be turned in for prizes or awards? >> how did that start? >> that is what i would like to understand. i would like to look of these programs and ask what purpose they serve. i did what contractual agreements to we have with our employees related to them? we suspended them, so it is part of our review to get to the bottom of them. for the time being, i have asked him to hold and suspend a inventory pending a decision on whether we move forward. if we move forward, it could be reused. if we do not, we are in charge of the disposal of federal
11:09 pm
property, so we would find a way to dispose of it properly. >> what kinds of awards you feel are appropriate? >> sepp is one thing we have to look at, as ourselves if it is tied to the appropriateness iphones -- the appropriate type of performance. we can emphasize savings. >> you heard the testimony of the former administrator and the fact that just about all the members are very concerned, and i think it was probably one of the weak parts of her testimony, the full issue of the $9,000 bonus. can you explain the process by which one thing was separate from another? how do you deal with that? i think if anything, i remember
11:10 pm
when we had aig and all these companies giving bonuses for bad behavior. i was very upset about it. i think the last thing you want to do is give them bonuses, and even if there is a two-track process, as you go about the business of trying to reestablish a trust, you do not want the public to be confused about people partying with their money, and at the same time getting a bonus. it is like slapping them in the face, so i am wondering what are your plans with regard to that? have you talked about it i?
11:11 pm
is that something that is federal government wide? >> i have some responsibility in my role as assistant secretary in management, and i have to say i have a slight disagreement. i believe the process gives the administrator more authority, so one thing we will need to do is make sure, as we look at how we manage performance, but we should look at conversations we are having a combined and if there are issues, maybe put them on hold now if there are big questions. >> i was talking about reestablishing trust, but it there may have been rules but were disregarded, and
11:12 pm
that concerns me, particularly when you have ruled sector not only disregarded, but then you have folks making videos of how they are disregarding them, which is incredible to me, and basically saying, to hell with those people who are supposed to over the oversight. it seems like you have to dig deep to get into this. i am trying to figure out, how do you get to that? were you here for the administrator testimony? >> i saw the testimony. >> did you hear my last question? the administrator is here, but there is all this stuff said seems to have a disconnect, so talk to me. >> what i've found in the short
11:13 pm
term, it seems obvious there is a disconnect, and to some extent we need to build a stronger connection, so i have out of chief financial officer -- asked the chief financial officer to serve in the region so we have visibility into the way regions are designing budgets and spending budgets, and i think that is one thing as we conduct of top to bottom review, we can ask ourselves, why are we structured this way? is this the best way to provide oversight, if not, we should change it. >> i agree with the chairman but we have seen what the failure to have somebody in that position permanently can do, and we need
11:14 pm
to do that, and i hope the president will nominate to you or someone capable of addressing these issues, and the senator will move on to confirmation as soon as possible. if there is anything we can do, please do not fail to call us. >> i understand that. >> the chair will now recognize the gentleman from texas. as we saw earlier the mission statement. are you ok with revising that, or are we thinking it is ok embarq >> i think we should start with a mission statement and goals. i have not been there long enough to say whether this is the exact right one or the wrong one. it seems to hit many key points of efficiency and effectiveness, so i want to make sure even if
11:15 pm
we were to change it we would not lose those important parts. >> it would be your believe it is their job to get the best deal for the government and efficiently manage what the government has? part of that would be taking care of tax dollars as if they were your own or if they were being held in trust their mark >> absolutely. axe the portion of the title of this hearing is if we have a cultural problem, and i have to say i have worked with a lot of great government employees. i have worked with some that are not so great. do you think this is a cultural problem or more of a cancer? >> i think this is a cultural problem probably tied to a regional problem.
11:16 pm
i cannot say if we have a cultural problem. i have received thousands of e- mails from employees who are every bit as angry about what took place here. >> it is my hope this is a cancer and we will be able to and i think this committee has already started investigating spending habits. with regards to acquisition it identified athe number of problems. this is in the first report, which raised questions of disclosing competitor pricing. gsa officials have failed to
11:17 pm
properly public offerings and admitted clauses to protect the government your urine do you think this is ignorance or for training? >> i can tell you i think this is unacceptable, and we should hold ourselves to a higher standard, and one issue i have taken recently is to senior rise the ability to grant or withdraw warrants, so i think we have to take a strong look at how we do things, what our standards are, how do we create structures of accountability, and hopefully we can make improvements to make sure something like this does not happen again.
11:18 pm
>> in the past few months, there have been an alarming amount of folks who have complained about the government contracting process, not just with the gsa, but with other agencies, and you ought to be able to walk away feeling you were treated fairly. to have your bid disclose to a competitor or to have hit a low as pastor over is very frustrating to people, and you just throw up your hands. you do not have the money. you just walk away and say, i am not done with the government. you end up with good people refusing to go through the red tape, so i look forward to the gsa making it a priority with
11:19 pm
the other government agencies that they train, and i would appreciate your commitment to making the part of your agenda appear eager to >> i appreciate that, and i think you are right. it is not always easy, but it should be fair. >> we recognize the gentleman from the district of columbia. -- the gentlewoman from the district of columbia. >> thank you. i must say that i welcome the president's decision to bring you to the gsa because i am familiar with your record, because of the tough suppose you have had. first the president takes out the top of the agency, including
11:20 pm
the administrators who may have not been conversant with what was happening below. that is the way things are done in parliamentary democracies in britain and asia, but somehow we go after someone who has hands- on as if it has nothing to do with the way the agency is run, so i think your experience running the operations of a big city and the metropolitan transit authority more than a equips you to take on what needs to be done, and you have heard the administrator speak about what she felt. i cannot imagine you do not think so as well. it maybe you can continue what she began, and it may be that you have a different vision.
11:21 pm
let me give you a specific example, because it involves a chain of command. if there is a question about by the other side that i think is very good, which is how does mr. neely get ahold of this money and the first place. dave was not ever answered to my satisfaction. it looks like he was in charge of mr. neely n.y., so let me ask you about how the centralized agency is and whether it is decentralized to a fault. there is one saying that goes if you delegate to managers hands- on responsibility, you can hold them accountable, and they become more creative. when you get a situation like this, one has to ask whether the agency has a chain of command,
11:22 pm
whether if four important issues like spending the administrator at atop said, i do not know anything about it. one wonders if this agency is run at the regional level with washington having no responsibility for holding the region accountable. i would like you to discuss what you think of the chain of command, if you think is to whether inzed, general this agency has simply allowed itself to be run as if there were all 11 regions
11:23 pm
running one agency. good >> i think our economy -- i think economy is incredibly important, but a economy without accountability can lead to the type of situation and we have here. prices did mr. nearly report to anyone on spending, -- >> did mr. neely report to anyone on spending? >> i do not understand the structure he was operating under a the time. i can tell you my concern is that the financial management office was autonomous from the chief financial officer, that each of the different regions have authority over their own budget, so they have autonomy over the administration of those budgets. we even found it is very hard to get the records from the region
11:24 pm
of spending, so early on the quickest thing we can do to make sure we have a stronger sense of accountability to avoid this kind of thing from happening again and the near-term and going forward is to centralize the authority within the agency's chief financial officer and make each of those service and regional managers report to that officer, who is going to have to build the appropriate systems, the appropriate budget oversight, but that appeared to be missing. >> can i ask you about dathat? if you want to order something, you have to order through the gsa. cannon be that those programs got out of hand -- can it be
11:25 pm
that this program got out of hand because gsa randy's devices with little oversight from the top and simply regarded these stores region randy's with little oversight from the top and simply view -- ran this with little oversigh from the top? i am looking for their link between their own of thrifty and using it with employees i have elsewherenoeen done triggered strikes that was focused with electronic equipment, was focused around region 9. the broader program operated throughout the agency. from what i also understand,
11:26 pm
they were violating the personnel rules and the limit you could give for anyone special reward, so the rules were in place. what we have is a case of people in ignoring them. >> if you are going to give out valuable things like ipods and electronic equipment, it seems like somebody has done something pretty wonderful in the agency. >> the chair will now recognize himself on for questioning. you have a herculean task to restore public trust. and most folks do not prioritize government. they do not have any faith, so
11:27 pm
it is a big challenge, but it is a fundamental challenge. you have to do it, and far be it from me to tell you how to do your job. i can tell you this. when we had a budget cuts, we extended region we suspended all travel, -- when we have budget cuts, we suspended all travel, so i would encourage you to do something to send a message that if it can be done on telephone in must be done via telephone. if it can be done through teleconferencing -- i have never -- not to say i have never been part of a team exercise, but i have been two different consequences, but for folks
11:28 pm
watching and struggling, it is hard to understand what they have heard today, what they understand about this conference. let me understand, if one of the folks we are working for, one of our fellow citizens or government employee is aware of ways for personal gains. is there a repository? they do not have access to the inspector general. if this is an ordinary citizen, to whom when they report it? >> i know there is a web site to which they can report these things, of but a private citizen can report waste and fraud and abuse by going to, and we have an e-
11:29 pm
mail address, and they have a phone number . we encourage them if they see anything untoward to reach out. >> mr. cummings raise the provocative point, which is where is the line between nuances that need more training and character deficiencies? some of what happened in this conference, there is no training in the world that is going to fix it. is a character flaw, so if you are having to train someone and they cannot go to a hotel employee and ask for a discount on a personal pocket book, it
11:30 pm
strikes me that there is no training in the world that is going to fix that. how do you address that from your position? >> i think it is a leadership requirement. it means you have to from messages coming from the top. in the first week, meeting with the inspector general, we agreed to send a joint letter to all gsa step and say we have an expectation they will raise alarm more concerned if they see something they think is on toward. gsa employees are the most skilled for understanding the travel rules, procurement rules, acquisition rules. they should be the ones who are the easiest to recognize when something is wrong. i think we have to start with strong leadership. we have to make sure our leaders are actually sending the leaders in the regions, the leaders throughout the organization, are
11:31 pm
sending a similar message. we have to encourage employees to come forward and say it is ok to come forward if you see something wrong because that is the way we kept these things before they get out of control and happen the way this one did. >> time for one more specific question. most folks reading about this, watching on the news, are struggling with whether or not there will be able to go on vacation this summer, but going on the scouting trip to go -- to figure out whether they like the condo or the beach house or the amusement park never entered their mind. was this a question of people exceeding their jurisdiction, the subject matter jurisdiction, if you will, or was it an abuse of discretion? is there really the power to say, i need to go four or five times to scout a series of four- star hotels?
11:32 pm
is it totally outside their jurisdiction? was it just an abuse of discretion? most of us were surprised to learn that you would have the authority to abuse, to have multiple scouting trips, when everything is available on virtual online tours, word of mouth. which is it? is it a discretionary power issue? >> i may not be the best person to enter. i can tell you what we have done. we have centralized our travel and conference approval process in our chief administrative officers. we don't think you will get in the way of anyone doing important travel and training by simply asking that they come to the front office, to the headquarters, and make a case for what it is they are doing. hopefully, it's this kind of things begin to happen, we can see a pattern and we can stop it before it goes further.
11:33 pm
frankly, i think people know when they're being watched, and they have to make a case, and they have to document it. that will impart something to stop this behavior. >> my time is up. on behalf of all of us, thank you for your testimony today. we honestly wish you well. i don't know you. not because i personally want to to do well, but for us to make this a republic, you have to do well. we have to do well. we cannot survive with people not having confidence in the institutions of government. we won't make it. on behalf of all of us, thank you and good luck. >> thank you. >> with that, the hearing is adjourned. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2012] >> up next, a pentagon briefing on the recent attacks in afghanistan.
11:34 pm
later, americans for tax reform calls for making changes to the u.s. tax code. tuesday on "washington journal," dennis ross on federal work force joins us to talk about the full committee's investigation into wasteful spending by the general services administration. then, representative bobby scott will discuss efforts in congress to end racial profiling by state and federal law-enforcement officials. we will also speak with a "usa today" reporter to learn more about the non-profit organization alec. "washington journal" airs at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. the pentagon said the pakistani-
11:35 pm
based militant network was likely behind a series of coordinated attacks across afghanistan that killed civilians and afghan security personnel. leon panetta and joint chiefs of staff general martin dempsey spoke to reporters. there were asked about an incident involving members of the secret service and u.s. military in colombia. this news briefing is about 35 minutes. >> good afternoon. it's been an interesting few weeks since we last met, and i am sure you'll have some interesting questions, but before i do that, let me -- let me summarize some key points. on afghanistan, last week we
11:36 pm
held extensive consultations with afghan minister of defense wardak and minister of interior mohammadi. with the two mous that we signed on detention operations and special operations, i believe this relationship is on the right path. and we are continuing to make progress on the strategic partnership agreement as well. there will be challenges, continuing challenges, as we saw over the weekend, but our partnership remains strong, the afghans are providing greater security, and the strategy that general allen has put in place is succeeding. on the middle east, we hosted prince salman, the saudi minister of defense. we had a productive discussion
11:37 pm
on security challenges emanating from the middle east, where iran's nuclear program remains a pressing concern and where in syria, the assad regime's violence is increasingly intolerable. and obviously, they continue to raise questions about their adherence to the cease-fire agreement. on north korea, we have been in very close contact with our counterparts in south korea and japan as we monitored the provocative, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt by the north korean government to conduct a missile launch. we will continue to be fully prepared for any future provocations should they occur. case,e that won't be the but we continue to be prepared in the event that that happens. on nato, i'm leaving tomorrow
11:38 pm
morning for a joint nato ministerial with secretary clinton in brussels, the last high-level meeting that will take place before the chicago summit in may. we're at a pivotal point for the alliance as we build on the gains that have been made in afghanistan and try to chart the course for the future in that -- in that area. ensurelso be working to that nato itself has the right military capabilities that will be needed for the future in order for nato to assume the responsibilities that it must as we proceed. but even as we deal with these global security challenges, we have another great challenge here at home, which is working with the congress to implement our new defense strategy. let me just give you a quick update on where i think things stand at this point. since the president's budget
11:39 pm
request was released on february 13th, the budget and strategy that we've developed have been subject to intense scrutiny on capitol hill. chairman dempsey and i went up to the hill to testify five times before the key committees as many of you know. but there have been more than 50 additional congressional hearings with the service secretaries, the service chiefs, the combatant commanders and other senior civilian and military leaders. a lot of tough questions were asked, but i believe that both our strategy and our budget proposals have held up very well under this very intense scrutiny. as a result, we continue to strongly believe that this is the right strategy and the right budget to meet our responsibilities to a strong national security and to tough fiscal requirements. military and civilian leaders here at the department all stand unified behind our strategy and our budget because,
11:40 pm
i think, we believe we've developed that strategy and the budget together as a team. in a word, the key elements of the strategy -- i think they're familiar with -- to all of you -- but let me just quickly summarize those key points. first, the force will be smaller and leaner, but it must be agile and flexible and deployable and technologically advanced. second, we will rebalance our global posture, emphasizing the asia-pacific and the middle east. third, we'll strengthen key alliances and partnerships through rotational deployments and other innovative ways to sustain our presence elsewhere. fourth, we'll ensure our military can confront aggression and defeat any opponent anytime, anywhere. and lastly, we will protect investments in new technologies such as isr, space, cyberspace, global strike, special ops and the capacity to quickly
11:41 pm
mobilize. of course, in the end, it's up to congress. in the coming weeks they will begin considering the defense authorization and appropriations bills. our hope is that congress will carefully consider the new defense strategy and the budget decisions that resulted from that strategy. the key is that this is a zero- sum game. because of the budget control act, any change in any one area of the budget and force structure will inevitably require offsetting changes elsewhere. and that carries the real risk that this is -- if this is not done right, the result could be a hollow, unbalanced or weaker force. our hope is that our strategy will not be picked apart piece by piece. if, for example, we're prevented from carrying out all of the six major weapons
11:42 pm
terminations that we have proposed, the result will be a need to find as much as $9.6 billion in savings from other areas over five years. and that could mean less money to buy high-priority ships or acquire the next-generation aircraft. if congress rejects all of the modest changes we've proposed in tricare fees and copays for retirees, than almost $13 billion in savings over the next five years will have to be found in other areas such as readiness, or we could be forced to further reduce our troop strength. so the message we wanted to send congress today is that there is very little margin for error with this package. that's the reality that all of us are living with. the strategy we developed will maintain, we believe, the strongest military in the world by every measure, and that's
11:43 pm
essential because of the nature of the security challenges that we're facing. i believe we're at a critical point in our nation's history. we need to rise to meet the challenges that are facing us in this dangerous and uncertain world, and we can't afford to have the congress resort to bitter partisanship or parochialism at this critical time. we owe it to the american people to ensure that the right decisions are made to protect our nation and our national security from the full scope of modern threats, including the threat of our debt and our deficits. above all, we owe it to the american people to find a way to avoid sequester. the clock is ticking. it's been 121 days since the supercommittee failed, and congress has yet to find a way to avoid the threat of sequester. i still remain optimistic that we can hopefully find a way to
11:44 pm
avoid this disaster. and all of us working together to find consensus and provide strong bipartisan leadership to protect our economy, our quality of life and our national security. that's what the american people expect of their leaders. it's what we at the department of defense have made in an -- in an -- in the effort to do this with the defense strategy that we put in place for the future. and let me just close by noting that in the spirit of that partnership between dod and congress, general dempsey and i will be meeting tonight with members of congress, the caucus on women in the military and the military sexual assault prevention caucus, to discuss the next series of steps that the department will be taking with regards to sexual assault. as i've said before, sexual assault has no place in the
11:45 pm
military, and we have made it a top priority to combat this crime. we will continue to develop our strategies; we'll continue to devote our energy and our intention to enforcing our department's zero tolerance policy on sexual assault, and building a zero tolerance culture in the military for sexual assault. my goal is to do everything possible -- i think our goal has been to do everything possible to open up the military to everyone who wants to serve this country. to do that, we must effectively deal with this kind of threat. >> thanks, mr.secretary. good afternoon. secretary panetta rightly observes that the past several weeks have been pretty remarkable, actually. these last seven days alone remind us yet again that we live in an extraordinarily complex and increasingly competitive
11:46 pm
world. in fact, today we face a security paradox: a time that may appear, on the surface, to be less dangerous but that underneath the surface is actually more dangerous. levels of violence are by some accounts at an evolutionary low point. but destructive technologies are also proliferating down and out, to groups and individuals as well as formerly middleweight powers. as a consequence, there simply are more actors with more potential to do us harm. this is not a time for comfort or complacency, which is why our nation's senior civilian and military leaders came together last year to develop a new strategy. the strategy affirms our solemn duty to protect our country and its citizens. it's informed by a security environment that is changing in unprecedented ways. it applies the lessons of a decade of war. and it calls for a joint force that is ready to deter and defeat any threat along the spectrum of conflict.
11:47 pm
as i've mentioned before, the fiscal year '13 budget is an essential first step toward joint force 2020. our strategy and the budget constitute a carefully balanced set of choices. the decisions we made are not about doing more with less, or certainly not less with less. they are about making sure we have the right talent and the right tools to keep america immune from coercion. put another way, we updated our strategy to responsibly meet the nation's security needs, nothing more and nothing less than that. i'm confident that this approach honors our commitment to our military family and the american people. thank you, and we look forward to your questions. >> mr. secretary, i'd like to ask both of you about the multipronged attacks in afghanistan yesterday. is it your assessment at this point that these attacks were organized and led by the haqqani network? and if so, what does it say about the severity of the threat posed by the haqqanis and
11:48 pm
about the inability of the pakistani government to crack down on the haqqanis? >> the intelligence indicates that the haqqanis were behind the attacks that took place. and we had received a great deal of intelligence indicating that the haqqanis were planning these kinds of attacks. and obviously, we're always concerned about the attacks that take place. they reflect that the taliban is resilient, that they remain determined. and yet i think we're also confident that the afghans have increased their capability to deal with these kinds of attacks. there were no tactical gains here. these are isolated attacks that are done for symbolic purposes, and they have not regained any territory. they haven't been able to
11:49 pm
really conduct an organized attack since last year. and what it told us -- and i think general allen pointed this out -- is that it confirms that the afghan army and police did a great job of reacting to these attacks. they quickly restored order, they quickly restored security in those areas, and it gave us an indication that they really are improving in terms of their capability to provide security. having said all of that, this is clearly the beginning of the spring offensive that the taliban engages in, and we are, i think, fully confident that, combined with the afghan army, we can confront that threat. >> and i'll just add, bob, that though the evidence leads us to believe that the haqqani network was involved in this, it doesn't lead back into pakistan at this time.
11:50 pm
the threat -- you know, the haqqani network exists on both sides of the border. so i'm -- we're not prepared to suggest this emanated out of pakistan. i mean, the evidence may at some point lead us there, but we're not there yet. secondly, you know, you ask, what does it mean? it means we're still in a fight, and i don't -- i don't think any of us have ever suggested there wouldn't be fighting to -- still needing to be done. in fact, we've been talking quite openly about the fact that we've got three more fighting seasons with which to both build the ansf and diminish the capability of the taliban and the associated movements. thirdly, as the secretary said, we did have intel. but it -- we weren't trying to protect a discrete moment like we were at the loya jirga. and if you remember, when president karzai called for the loya jirga, the security was remarkable. i mean, there wasn't a single incident that occurred around that, even though the ansf was completely in the lead in that regard. and so this is a little bigger challenge, though, when you
11:51 pm
have kind of intelligence that is vague about timing and you have to, you know, keep you guard up constantly. and the last thing is -- and i've worked, as you know, with both the iraqi security forces and the afghan security forces. and i'll tell you, the afghan security forces perform their duties admirably when attacked, even though it was on very short notice over the last 48 hours. >> i want to follow up on what you had to say about the afghan ministers here last week, the defense minister and the interior minister. the interior minister told us that he received assurances from you about training assistance and equipment assistance after 2014. and i wonder if you could just expand on those assurances. what do you think the u.s. role and mission will look like after 2014? >> well, we're going to be discussing that in brussels and chicago. and obviously, we'll want to work closely with our isaf partners to determine what that
11:52 pm
enduring presence will look like. but clearly, it's -- it -- you know, any future presence will focus on areas like counterterrorism and focus also on training assistance and advice, as we've provided and probably will continue to provide in the future. do you assume there'll be hundreds if not thousands of u.s. soldiers still on the ground in 2014? >> i don't -- i don't think we ought to comment on what we're assuming at this point, mainly because we really want to engage in serious consultation with our partners as to what that presence ought to look like. >> but there will be some u.s. presence, correct? >> that's -- i think that'll be the case. >> secretary panetta and chairman dempsey, i wanted to follow up with -- on the attacks over the weekend. these kind of attacks are -- amount to something like guerrilla warfare. couldn't that in itself be effective enough to undermine the confidence of the afghan
11:53 pm
people, to undermine the effort to try to stabilize afghanistan in the long run and for the afghan security forces to be able to deal with these attacks if you're -- you know, every few months you have an attack like this in a major population area? >> well, look, you know, it's -- i -- as general dempsey pointed out, we are in a war, and we are going to confront this enemy in these kinds of attacks. but i don't think any of this detracts from the fundamental conclusion that 2011 was, i think, a clear turning point. we did seriously weaken the taliban. they have not been able since
11:54 pm
that time to put together any organized attack to regain any territory that was lost. the afghan people themselves, particularly in these areas that were once dominated by the taliban, are rejecting the taliban, and that's a very good point. the afghan army and police are becoming much more capable at engaging in operations and providing security. we have successfully been transitioning areas to afghan governance and security. we're in the process of completing the second tranche of areas. that will represent 50 percent of the afghan people will be under afghan security and governance. when we complete the third tranche, hopefully this year,
11:55 pm
we'll have 75 percent of the afghan people under governance -- afghan governance and afghan security. so significant progress is being made here. at the same time as we've gone through that, we continue to experience ieds. we continue to experience, you know, periodic attacks by the taliban. we're going to continue to see suicide attacks. we're going to continue to see efforts by them to try to undermine confidence in afghanistan that we're headed in the right direction. it hasn't worked in the past. i don't think it'll work in the present, mainly because it is clear that we are headed in the right direction right now. and i think the afghan people believe that. >> yeah, the only thing i'd add is, you know, it's never been our goal to drive attacks to zero and then hand over responsibility to the afghan national security forces. the idea here has been to -- you know, to continue to assist them in becoming increasingly more and more capable of taking
11:56 pm
over the fight. and i think, you know, what you saw them -- how you saw them react today, with very, very -- or yesterday, with very little help from us, i think, is an indicator that that strategy is sound. >> can you -- you said it required air power at the end to -- >> not much. the french provided a couple of helicopters. we provided a couple of helicopters. but this was very much an afghan show. yeah, over here. >> mr. secretary, when you have the kind of failed rocket launch we saw with north korea, do you expect them to do something provocative to try to save face? and specifically, are you expecting a nuclear test in the weeks and months ahead? >> you know, whether their launch was a success or a failure, the bottom line was that it was provocative and that they should not have taken that step because it violates the u.n. resolution and it was, you know, clearly something that they had been urged not to do by the international community. they went ahead, did it; it failed.
11:57 pm
our hope is that they will not engage in any further provocation. but i can assure you that we have -- we have taken all of the steps necessary to deal with any contingency. but, again, our hope is that they will not engage in provocation, but that they'll go back to the negotiating table and try to resolve these issues, as they should, on a diplomatic basis. >> did you say a nuclear test? >> -- to detonate another nuclear warhead, as they've threatened to do or talked about doing? >> i -- all we've ever -- i heard the same rumors you have. i haven't seen anything specifically. >> let me start here. >> we asked about sequestration. it was eight months ago, at your first press conference, you said you needed to better educate the hill on -- to avoid the doomsday mechanism. eight months later, there doesn't seem to be a lot of movement here. when does your optimism turn to just hard-eyed, cold -- this
11:58 pm
isn't going to work; we need to plan for it? and to both of you, what impact does the specter of sequestration have -- having on the defense industrial base, the contractors you depend on? you don't -- you don't talk much about that but -- >> -- you need to plan for it. i think, you know, the shadow of sequestration is there. and i don't think we're kidding anybody by saying that somehow, you know, it's not having some impact. clearly in the -- you know, the industrial community is concerned about the potential for its impact. it continues to be a concern that we have as far as the possibility that that could happen. but you know, i continue to urge the congress. there isn't any member i've talked to that doesn't think that sequester is a disaster. there isn't any member who's said to me, you know, oh, it'll be great.
11:59 pm
all of them understand that it's the wrong way to go. and i just have to hope that ultimately, they will find the courage and leadership to be able to address that issue, de- trigger sequester, deal with the other challenges that are out there and try to do it as soon as possible because frankly, the longer this drags on, the more of an impact it has in terms of the planning process and in terms of the budget process. and frankly, even though we're not planning for sequester to take place because it is such a disastrous step if it occurs, it still has an impact within the department and outside the department for planning purposes. >> well, just if the past is prologue, you know, we were -- we confronted a new fiscal reality in late summer last year, and it took us every bit of energy we had to get from there to the budget submission in february. so i mean, i would anticipate
12:00 am
that we would have to begin doing some planning in the mid to late summer if we have any chance at all of reacting to it should it trigger. >> do you agree with that, secretary panetta? in mid to late summer you're going to have to start planning? because that is not a strategy that -- yeah, i would -- i would assume that omb at that point would have to indicate, you know, to not just the department of defense, but to other agencies that we would have to begin to do some preliminary planning. even though i think all of us believe that ultimately, this will not happen, we still have to take that precaution. yes. >> general dempsey, how embarrassed should the u.s. military be that members of the u.s. military were potentially involved in whatever went on in colombia surrounding the president's visit? how concerned are you about this? and mr. secretary, a quick follow-up. you've made a very impassioned
12:01 am
plea so many times about the budget and spending. with respect, are you thinking about adjusting your own travel schedule out to california, since you have racked up -- pardon me -- assumed a tab of about a million dollars in -- close to a million dollars in taxpayer money? understanding you require security and communications, sir, nonetheless, the question being the cost that it is to the taxpayer. >>we are embarrassed. i mean, i can -- i can't -- you said how embarrassed is thei can -- i can speak for myself and my fellow chiefs. we're embarrassed by what occurred in colombia, though we're not sure exactly what it is, but what we do know is that we distracted -- that several of our members distracted the issue from what was a very important regional engagement for our president. so we let the boss down, because nobody's talking about what went on in colombia other than this incident.
12:02 am
so to that extent, we let him down. the investigation's ongoing. it'll chart a path for us. and we'll hold those accountable if it turns out that they violated orders or policies or laws. >> let me just, on that, say that you know, whether our -- whether our forces are in colombia or any other country, or here in this country, we expect them to abide by the highest standard of behavior. that's a requirement. and for that reason, we will -- we are conducting a full investigation into this matter. the southern command under general fraser is doing that. and hopefully, we will determine exactly what took place here. i don't want to prejudge it, but obviously, if violations are determined to have been the case, then these individuals will be held accountable, and that's as it should be. with regards to the other
12:03 am
question, as you know, for 40 years that i've been in this town, i've gone home because my wife and family are there and because, frankly, i think it's healthy to get out of washington periodically just to get your mind straight and your perspective straight. but clearly, in this job, you know, i -- normally, i've flown home commercially; in this job, i'm obligated to be in touch with communications, and that -- i have to fly on a secure plane. i regret that it does -- you know, that it does add costs that the taxpayer has to pick up. the taxpayer would have to pick up those costs with any secretary of state -- or secretary of defense. but having said that, i am trying to look at what are -- what are the alternatives here that i can look at that might possibly be able to save funds
12:04 am
and at the same time be able to fulfill my responsibilities not only to my job, but to my family. >> mr. secretary -- hey, let me -- tony, let me help the boss here, because if i couldn't get a hold of him, we'd have a really different relationship. so i mean, there really is a legitimate reason for him to -- and by the way, he doesn't get much rest in california, based on the number of times i know that i'm in contact with him. the other thing is i've noticed that he consistently finds another -- it's not just he flies from here to -- out to california. he'll go to visit army, air force, navy, coast guard, marines all in and around the united states. so it's not a -- out and back. i'm -- you know, i just want you to know this is not about him just using that airplane to get himself back and forth to the west coast every weekend. yes. >> secretary panetta, why have you decided to make sexual assault a top priority at this time? and can you comment on the size of the problem and the urgency in finding better prevention strategies? and also, you mentioned
12:05 am
building a zero-tolerance culture. in your opinion, is there a culture of tolerance now? and what do you think is responsible for that? >> well, you know, i've been very concerned about the sexual assault issue because the reports we have indicate -- i think we just issued a report that indicates that there's about 3,000 reported incidents of sexual assault, but the fact is that there are a larger number of unreported incidents. and i don't -- you know, i'm not kidding myself or anybody else. these are tough issues, tough to prove. but the reality is that when they take place and nothing happens, it really is the kind of indication that somehow, you know, we're not going to take the steps that we have to take when these criminal violations take place. and for that reason, i think there's a series of steps --
12:06 am
we're going to discuss it with the congress -- that we can take in order to make clear that we're going to go after that kind of violation, because, as i said, we're trying to open up -- the military should be available to all of those who want to serve this country, and if -- if sexual assault is one of those areas that is not being aggressively gone after and dealt with, then it sends a terrible signal to those that want to serve. and that's the reason i think general dempsey and i want to move as aggressively as we feel necessary to deal with that issue. we'll take one or two more. >> general dempsey, you mentioned you had advance intelligence about the attack yesterday. can you be a little more specific about that? was the intelligence -- did it indicate multiple attacks around the country? did it indicate attacks in kabul? president karzai has criticized nato for not -- for the -- for failure to act on the intelligence.can you respond to that?
12:07 am
>> sure. yeah, the -- there was intelligence suggesting that as the winter became the spring and the fighting season reopened on or about the 21st of march, you know, the beginning of the new year in some societies, that the taliban wanted to make a statement that they were back. and so i mean, that was kind of one thread. and then the other thread was that the simultaneity of attacks across the country would, in their view, have -- you know, kind of attenuate or actually accent that. but there was no specificity regarding location or time. and so that's about as much as i can say about the intelligence. yes. >> on the attacks and the haqqani network, admiral mullen said last year that the -- that these haqqanis were essentially -- or basically a virtual arm of the -- of the pakistani intelligence. is that still the case? or are you saying since they didn't -- since they can't be traced back to them this time,
12:08 am
has that changed? have they distanced themselves? well, you know, i think that there's no question that the haqqanis have a base in pakistan. but they also have, you know, moved across the border and have operated in enclaves in afghanistan as well. but there is a concern that they continue to find safe haven back in pakistan. and that's the kind of situation that has concerned us and that we have made very clear to the pakistanis it's not tolerable. >> yeah, i have nothing to add. they've been -- you know, they've been in pakistan for 20 years. >> thank you. thank you. i have a question on syria. mr. secretary, mr. chairman, as you may know, i mean, before your meeting with prince salman, saudi arabia and even qatar have both expressed their intentions to arm the syrian rebels. i would like to know from you what's the pentagon's position in regards to this matter? and one more thing -- if president assad keeps in his
12:09 am
violence, what's next in syria? >> i think, you know -- it's something that general dempsey and i have testified on the hill, will testify on thursday, with regards to syria as well. i think our view has been that, first of all, with the thousands of lives that have been lost there, that the government of syria has lost its legitimacy and that assad must step down. i mean, we continue to take that position. at the same time, i think, we believe that we have to continue to work with the international community to keep putting pressure on assad. sanctions have been applied. the international community continues to work to try to do everything possible to try to resolve that terrible situation. and the pressure is continuing, and other countries are
12:10 am
applying pressure as well. i think that's the clear course we ought to continue on. we continue to plan for all alternatives. we -- we're -- we continue to be prepared to respond, should the president ask us to take any additional steps. but, at the present time, this is a diplomatic issue and an international issue, and that's where it should be in terms of trying to resolve this issue. thank you, everyone. >> this week, defense secretary leon panetta and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, warned in sick, will testify on
12:11 am
capitol hill before the house armed services committee about the situation -- security situation in syria. live coverage thursday at 10 am eastern on c-span3. following the killing of florida teenager trayvon martin, a senate judiciary subcommittee will hold a hearing on racial profiling tomorrow. the panel will also look at immigration laws in alabama and arizona. we'll have live coverage at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span3. the americans for tax reform president grover norquist calls the senate debate on increasing taxes for the wealthiest americans a political gimmick on the eve of the tax filing deadline. this briefing is about 45 minutes. >> welcome, everybody. welcome to americans for tax reform's annual tax day eve press conference. bring together some of the best tax mines in washington and
12:12 am
people from the hill to talk about tax day and all the fun at that involves. i just wanted to quickly go through the speakers are going to be today and some of the handouts that you have on your chairs, and then i will turn it over to grover. first we are expecting one and perhaps to congressman today, congressman dave camp is on the way. o, j.d. man mike pompei foster, max pappas, pete sepp, who always does great work on the tax complexity side, and we
12:13 am
also have ralph reed with us today talking about the impact that tax day has on families. some of the handouts we have here, and i will hold them up, the first one is the senate will be voting on the buffett rule today. we have a handout on how the tax code is already steeply progressive as it is. next up is a little bit of a history lesson for what happened in washington state, when something like the buffett rule is put on the ballot, it failed 2 to 1. we have a list of all the tax hikes in obamacare with effective dates, with citations. we have all ridiculous to all the tax hikes by size -- we
12:14 am
have a list of all the tax hikes by size. it duplicates the blowup which are obama's promise is that he would not raise any form of taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year. we have a more comprehensive list of those quotes that are very easily replicable four stories and other anecdotes. we have a list of what is going to happen in december of this year, all of the tax increase is scheduled to take effect when the calendar turned over on january 1, 2013. we have a list of all the signers of the taxpayer protection pledge by state as well as a copy of -- and we have tax bites, which is a nice, glossy publication showed the percentage of everyday household goods which are made up of the cost of taxation. with that, i will turn it over
12:15 am
to grover norquist, president of americans for tax reform. >> thank you, i am grover norquist. april 15, this year, came on a sunday, so we should have got a stay of execution and falling your taxes. today, the 16th, is emancipation day here in d.c., so we got another stay of execution, but tomorrow is the 17th. we have run out of excuses, so all federal income tax forms have to be filed by the 17th. it is interesting that today, the day before the 17th, and the senate side, he helped -- harry reid is putting forward what he calls the buffett rule, which is a tax increase on rich people. this will be voted on today. this is interesting, because just as tax day shows up in and around every april 15, so does the modern democratic party's efforts to do trickle-down taxation show up again and again and again trickle-down taxation
12:16 am
is the argument that we are only going to tax rich people, and yet, over time, each of these efforts become a significant tax on all americans. while they discuss the buffett rule as only a tax on the few, some of us are painfully reminded that they said the same thing in 1969 when it instituted the alternative minimum tax. it was only going to hit 115 people. today the alternative minimum tax hits 4 million people, and in january of next year, it will hit 31 million people. so when somebody tells you that they have a tax increase only on the rich, they have a 31 million person rich target that they are looking at going forward. the spanish-american tax was going to be paid for by rich people in 1898. that tax lasted 100 years and
12:17 am
increase the tax on the rich became a tax on every man very quickly. personal income tax we are all paying homage to tomorrow as with all our forms was going to be a tax on 2% of the population and now directly hits war than half the population. so once again, we are being told that there is going to be a tax increase only on a few people. of course, more recently, that promise has been put forward and broken. you will remember now president obama's most famous promises, a series of them over here on this screen. president obama, september 12, 2008, before we voted for him, i can make a firm pledge under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. not your income tax, not your
12:18 am
payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes. again, on the web site,, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see their tax increase, and mr. obama's spokesman, robert gibbs, pointed out on april 15, 2009, that statement did not come with a caveat. 16 days into his presidency, barack obama son his first tax increase on people who use tobacco, about 25% of the american population, average income for each thousand dollars a year. it has been pointed out scientifically, there is only one american who earns more than $250,000 the year and smoke cigarettes, and his name is barack obama. so the first tax increase was on
12:19 am
lower and middle income americans. then he went on during obamacare to raise seven different specific taxes that target all americans, not just the rich. of course, he follows the clinton promise. president clinton promised he would only raise tax rates on the top 2% of americans, and in point of fact, that summer he raised taxes on everybody who drives a car and buys gasoline with the gasoline tax, which makes all of us rich people very quickly. promises to tax the few quickly morphin to taxes on all americans. -- quickly morph into taxes on all americans. they are playing politics here, not actually planning on governing. however, is it wise politics to play to hate and envy and class division? we have had a test run of this. in washington state, democrats
12:20 am
voted for obama. washington state put on their ballots last november, 100 years ago -- not 100 years ago, but just last november. what they put on the ballot was in position of income tax, but only on people who earn more than $200,000 a year, and it was voted down, 65-35. so not only is this a distraction, it is not even good politics. with that said, we will go in with a series of discussions and i will call on chairman dave camp -- dave camp to talk about tax day and what it means to all of us. >> good afternoon. thank you, grover, for having me here today. americans for tax reform is really the flagship organization when it comes to tax reform. as we continue to move toward a comprehensive reform plan, this
12:21 am
organization will be a critical ally in the fight to advocate tax relief to individuals, families, and job creators of all sizes. the time for a comprehensive tax reform is now. on april 1, japan lowered their corporate rates, so the u.s. became the country in the world with the highest corporate rate, at 39.2%, in the entire developed world. tax reform is necessary now more than ever, to compete in this global economy, to benefit u.s. employers and create u.s. jobs. we took a step as house republicans for comprehensive tax reform by putting a plan in our budget resolution, and house passed proposal includes additional building blocks for comprehensive tax reform, to include consolidating six brackets down to two, just 10%
12:22 am
and 25% to repeal the alternative minimum tax that hits 31 million people and could potentially threatened 31 million people with higher taxes if we don't address it. it reduces the corporate rate to 25, moves us from a worldwide territorial system of taxation. in the committee of ways and means, we have made a concerted effort to try and transform the code to one that helps job creators. since taking back the majority in congress, republicans on the ways and means committee released a draft proposal, going from the world wide to a territorial system. we have held more than nine hearings on tax reform at the full committee level or the subcommittee level, two joint hearings of finance and one of the joint committee for taxation. we have had numerous pieces of legislation that would address tax issues including repealing
12:23 am
repeal the 3%l as withholding all. the president's budget had almost $2 trillion increases in taxes. to the buffett rule that rover mentioned, time and time again, what we see is democrats wanting to raise taxes to get more revenue so they can spend it. what we really need is a comprehensive plan for both employers and individuals and families and job creators so we can lower rates, simplify the code, and have a code that is not uncertain and does not inspire -- expire every few minutes, causing lots of uncertainty for families and for businesses, but one that is simpler, fairer, and creates the kind of economic growth that we have yet to see in this economy. norplant and our budget will create, according to outside experts, a million jobs in the first year alone -- our plan and our budget.
12:24 am
>> mr. chairman, i now call on j.d. foster, it senior fellow in economic and fiscal policy with the heritage foundation. >> thank you, grover. i am j.d. foster. i want to thank atr for holding this event. the need for tax reform is very important for this country. is this tax reform is urgent. says a lot about america's companies that facing a combined rate of nearly 40%, they can compete with competitors who are facing around 25%. the real emergency in this country, four hundred $94 billion of tax hikes that -- $494 billion. that is a one-year figure. the congressman is in the back and can share that with you.
12:25 am
he has written a paper on it. no one disputes the tax hike or the damage it can do to america's families. no one disputes the harm it would do to the economy in 2013. a tax increase of this size could easily trigger another recession. but it is not just next year, this threaten tax increases hurting our economy this year. businesses don't know what tax rates to plan and they are putting off decisions until they know what next year's economy is going to look like. congress should not wait one more day to deal with taxmageddon. rather than waste time, like the so-called buffett rule in the senate, congress should deal with this immediately. before we can attempt tax reform, congress must, congresstaxmageddon. >> now max pappas, vice
12:26 am
president for freedomworks. >> thanks, grover. thanks to everybody for paying attention to this important issue today. for those who do not know is, we are nationwide grassroots organization with millions of the country fighting for less taxes, less government, and more freedom. we are big proponents of fundamental tax reform. i want to talk about how we are going to do it. we have heard year after year from politicians that they are going to come to washington and change the culture of washington. president bush promised it, nancy pelosi promised, barack obama promised it. but the promises to change the culture of washington is the snake oil of electoral politics. every year we hear about it. i am not going to come to washington with my personal collection piggyback, but we have seen too many guys do that. citizens have let even the best public service succumb to the
12:27 am
pressures of the beltway, but then election time comes again and we line up like charlie brown, seeing that football right there. we going ticket, and we land on our backs. we don't like the tax code, what it says about america, the fact that a company like general electric and pay no corporate income taxes because of all the loopholes that are in the code. that is why there's so much excitement about reforming the tax code. it is a catalog of special interest, and there are a lot of powerful groups and entities in washington that assure their special pieces get into the tax code. the people have woken up. that is why i am hopeful that this is going to be the real reform that we can actually pass, we can actually see a fundamental tax reform with a flatter rate that is fair for everybody across the board. but freedomworks is doing is, we have a new website called
12:28 am
scrapthecodenow. that is encouraging. these changes were difficult in the past. you could not get 500 people to sign a petition. recently we got 13,000 and a couple of days. we will e-mail out to a million people in our e-mail network. we'll put it out to facebook, a social networking group with 107,000 people on that, and 70,000 tea party groups. the people have finally realized that you cannot rely on politicians to change the culture of washington. washington is only going to change will get off the couches and revive the culture of citizen activism that made the american experiment possible in the late 1700's. we are at a new dawn for that.
12:29 am
people are getting involved. that is what the tea party is about. that is what citizen activism is about. you can go to for more information. i am excited about the possibility of getting rid of the giant, deadweight loss that is the tax code, to get it back to simply collecting the minimum amount of revenue to get the government to do the minimum amount of work that needs to do. thank you. >> max pappas, with freedom works. we know that when president obama promised he would not raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 a year, he was not telling the truth, because he went out and raise taxes on all americans repeatedly, over and over again. but we don't know is what his plans are to raise taxes on americans if he got reelected. we kind of have the numbers.
12:30 am
he says in his budget that he wants to have the buffett rule, the tax increase on millionaires. that would raise $30.70 billion over the next decade, according to the joint tax committee. however, the obama budget spends and creates additional debt of 6.6 $84 trillion. so if you add the buffett tax increase in his other tax increases, he needs to raise $6.653 trillion from middle income americans to pay for his and bigger government. so we do not know exactly how he intends to pick our pockets, but he has given us the number. this is not going to be fun. we now move to pete sepp, who
12:31 am
reminds all of us that the taxpayer movement needs more facial hair. thank you. >> thank you very much. when thinking about the tax system, we often consider how the burden of paying taxes affects our economy and our people, but what about the burden of filing taxes? that is a problem in its own right, as our annual study call the taxing trend tracks. we are told that our tax system is one of the most efficient in the world. the irs budget is relatively small compared to what it collects. that is because the burdens of our tax system in terms of compliance and collection really are imposed on all of us, not on the federal government itself. look at the information collection budget that the united states government puts out. all of the paperwork burden hours that all the federal
12:32 am
agencies because individuals and businesses. epa, health and human services, a treasure, what have you. the toll paperwork burden in the united states imposed by the fed is a little over 8 billion hours. the treasury accounts for 6 billion of those hours. about three-fourths of all compliance burdens with all the laws of the federal government and regulations have to do with the treasury department, primarily taxes. if you tried to put a cost figure on that, using, say, the average hourly compensation by the bureau of labor statistics, you are looking at 190 four dollars billion worth of time that is spent by americans complying with tax laws alone. -- $194 billion. imagine of tax reform could
12:33 am
somehow erase even half that burden for simplification. it would be talking about a costly stimulus to our economy of more than $100 billion a year. it sounds like something worth doing, especially if we don't want to add more money to the federal deficit. a very smart idea. we also have to consider the way that our tax system is complexity stifles economic develop. you were to take all those paperwork burden hours, divided by a worker, 40 hour work week, two weeks vacation a year, that would amount to 3.2 million people doing nothing every year, full-time, complying with tax laws. that is bigger than the retail forces of target, kroger, mcdonald's, and walmart
12:34 am
combined. again, a huge drain on our economy. we have gathered a lot of statistics and i have thrown out a lot of numbers, but the important thing to remember here is that as we think about redesigning our tax system, we should not just worry about the rates of tax charge, the various deductions, but we need to think about making it easier to file and pay taxes, and be more transparent. when we do that, people will recognize more clearly how much their government costs them, and they might just demand a government that spends their money a little more wisely. check out the study online, taxing trend. >> all the various documents we
12:35 am
have been referencing here, including a list of who has taken the taxpayer protection pledge. the pledge is a written commitment that a lot of elected officials and candidates for office have taken, and it is written commitment to oppose any and all efforts to raise net taxes on the american people. so let's get rid of it deductions and credits, but let's reduce marginal tax rates, and not ever allow tax reform to be a trojan horse for tax increases. so if you are looking at somebody who is running for congress or the senate or state legislature or governor, one thing you can do is ask them whether they have made a written , the pledge isyou to the citizens of the stake they are running for office in, that they will oppose and vote against all efforts to raise taxes. this has been helpful because
12:36 am
238 members of the house have made this written commitment, 41 senators, we were able to stop any tax increase last year, although president obama, harry reid, and nancy pelosi were calling for $3 trillion tax increase over the next decade. none of the tax increases they wanted were enacted. congress cut $2.5 trillion in spending. that spending restraint was only possible because enough members of the house and the senate had put in writing to you as american citizens that they would never, ever raise taxes. and of course, you probably heard a lot of screaming from spending interests here in washington d.c., i am happy that congressmen and senators had made that the bid and to you. they want the newly elected ones to come to washington d.c. and speak to the lobbyist and the establishment and the guys who
12:37 am
have been here forever, and then they will go back why as disappointed as they are, they are going to once again ask the president to send more money into the castle so they can keep spending as they wanted to. the good news is, we have enough members of the house, 238, who made the pledge in writing to you not to raise taxes. 41 senators. we'll have to take a look and see how many plays checkers we have, but that is really up to the american people to say to their candidates for office, have you taken a written pledge to the american people not to raise taxes? or if you go to washington d.c., the first time you run into our problem, will you decide that the solution is to raise taxes on the american people? we have ralph reed, who runs the fayed and freedom coalition. -- the faith and freedom coalition. >> thank you very much, grover.
12:38 am
i want to commend grover and americans for tax reform for being the premier organization in our nation working to lower taxes and reform our tax code so it is pro-growth, pro jobs, and pro-family. i am here representing an organization of a half-million evangelical christians, faithful catholics, tea party activists, and other conservatives. i suppose there would be some who would say why would an organization that works primarily on family policy care about lower taxes? the answer is really very simple. because this crushing tax burden that we are marking today falls heaviest on families and family owned business. when you really look at the overwhelming majority of small businesses in this country to create a% of the new jobs in our economy, the overwhelming majority were first of all, either female or minority owned,
12:39 am
and the overwhelming majority are essentially a family owned and operated enterprises. we also know that because of the 86 tax reform legislation, allowing seven chapters a limited liability partnerships and corporations to be filed under the personal tax reform in the tax returns, that about 80% and small businesses in america a file on a personal return -- under the personal tax returns. in 1950, the average family of four in america paid only 2% of their adjusted gross income in federal income taxes. today that figure is 22%. when you add in state tales -- sales taxes and income taxes,
12:40 am
property taxes and all the other fees and taxes from government at every level, the average family for an american is paying between 35% and 40% of their entire income in taxes to some government entity. that is money that cannot be used to grow business, cannot be used for the education of their children. it is money that cannot be used to provide health care or to care for elders or seniors, parents and other members of that extended family. we believe that the family is the most success -- instead of taking the money out of hard work and small businessmen and women and mothers and fathers and sending it to washington d.c. so it can be filtered back through a byzantine bureaucracy, where it falls of trickle-down and small drops into programs like subsidizing solyndra and
12:41 am
other failed experiments by our federal government, what we really ought to do is dramatically reformed the tax code, dramatically lower tax rates across the board, especially income tax rate, and allow that money to stay closest to the children and families that is designed to provide for. so we are pleased to join with americans for tax reform in calling for dramatic change. barack obama made a promise to the american people that he broke, and his record, his failed record of over a million more people out of work than the day he took the oath of office, and the federal government running up deficits in excess of a trillion dollars every year that he has been president, is going to be on the ballot in november. the american people are going to decide, but i can tell you that we at faith and freedom coalition, and many of the other
12:42 am
organizations gathered here today and solidarity, are going to make sure the american people are informed before they go to the polls. the fate and freedom coalition will be distributing a minimum of 35 million non-partisan voter guide said in over 100,000 churches and other houses of worship and anywhere that people gather this fall. in addition, we will be mailing a minimum of 25 million candidate comparison pieces directly to social conservative voters. grover, i am pleased to be able to tell you today that the atr tax pledge will be included on every one of those voter guides and every one of those mailed pieces. we believe the american people have a right to know who is in favor of lower taxes and limited government, and who is in favor of returning power and money back to the families and the small businesses, where it belongs.
12:43 am
barack obama talks a lot, and we are hearing a lot of rhetoric this week about the so-called buffett rule. the truth of the matter is that the soak the rich strategy does not work, not just because you cannot close the deficit simply by taxing the wealthy. it is not just because it only produces $5 billion-$6 billion a year when we will have a deficit this year alone of $1.10 trillion. it is also because two-thirds of those who file tax returns with adjusted gross annual incomes over a quarter million dollars are small businessmen and women or sole proprietors, many with fewer than 10 employees. so we support eric cantor's legislation that would give small businesses and sole proprietorships a 20% tax credit against their tax burdens. we know that is money that could be used to create a job, row
12:44 am
business, and generate economic opportunity. we really have as stark contrast as we have ever had in this country between those who believe and growing government and higher taxes and bigger deficits and more spending, and those who believe in smaller government, a limited constitutional government, lower taxes, strengthening small businesses and families. that is not only what the debate is about here in washington d.c., that is what the election will be about, come november. with our chapters in more than 30 states and half a million members are joining in this effort. >> thank you, ralph reed with a and freedom coalition. ralph was referencing the buffett rule, the tax increase largely on small and growing businesses in the united states. senator reid once to have a vote
12:45 am
here it is not going to pass, everybody knows that. but harry reid wanted to put the democrat majority in the senate on record as in favor of raising taxes on small businesses. eric cantor has introduced legislation to have a 20% cut in the taxes for those same small businesses that have fewer than 500 employees, as they pay their personal -- their business taxes on a personal line. there is something i do want to say that is good about this buffet line. that is that there is legislation now introduced -- not the buffett taxed but the buffet line. a congressman from louisiana has introduced legislation co- sponsored by senator tune of south dakota. this will put another line down at the bottom of your 1040 statement that tells you how much you go. another line says if you, like
12:46 am
warren buffett, believe that the of federal government should spend your money wisely and intelligently than you would, then at how much additional income of yours you would like to send to washington, d.c to be spent wisely by the bureaucracy in washington d.c. and not frittered away. this legislation introduced in the house and in the senate will be moving forward in the house, and we hope the senate will allow the buffet line to be put forward as well. then we will see which of these people run around saying that they are rich liberals and they think everybody else should be paying higher taxes, because the government can spend their money more wisely than they can. whether they believe that themselves and they want to write an additional check to washington d.c., or whether they are just moral hypocrites,
12:47 am
pretending that want to give more money to washington, but are being held back from doing that. mike pompeo has introduced very important tax reform legislation. unfortunately, on several levels, but their work rather unpleasant tornadoes in kansas and he will not be joining us today. but to explain his very important legislation, chris, if you could walk through which people why that legislation is so important and what it does. >> sari congressman pompeo could not make it. as grover mention, there is a lot of great legislation floating around, and the energy,
12:48 am
freedom, and economic prosperity act put forward by congressman pompeo is very important. it is tangible economic reform that conservatives and representatives of congress could easily get behind. what the legislation hopes to accomplish is, as everyone always agrees, america's tax code is far too complicated. secondly, america's energy market is fairly distorted. you have the department of energy giving grants to companies, giving loan guarantees to solyndra. another aspect of the energy market our energy tax credits. so we have a production tax credit for wind. for the past 20 years we have had the volume ethanol tax credit. there are dozens and dozens of energy tax credits which distort
12:49 am
the market, which are bad for consumers. it is largely because of these tax credits that people are putting corn in their cars, using went to power our businesses and all this stuff. coal companies and things of that nature are being regulated. however, an attempt to remedy these problems, the congressman has introduced the energy freedom and economic prosperity act that repeals every energy tax credits in the tax code. it also repeals the lower the income tax by an equivalent amount. the legislation proves it is not the case. it reveals every energy tax credit and reduces income tax by an equal an equivalent amount.
12:50 am
that is produced a long and short of it. i see representative pompeo's representative here. >> hopefully she will report to the congressman did an admirable job of summing up his bill. we have time for a few questions. >> [inaudible] >> taxes due to difficult things. they take money from people who earned it so they do not have it available for them and their families, but they also slow economic growth and kill jobs. the businesses don't start up. one of the things that is painful is, we have had a very dynamic economy in the united states.
12:51 am
throughout 2001, 2002, 2003 and so on, actually month, 5.3 million started new jobs. about 5.1 million would ended jobs. so you had tremendous turnover. in the course of the year, 60 million people would start jobs and 58 million people would retire or move to other jobs. we netted 2 million new jobs, it was not that everybody stayed in place and 2 million people walked into the room and got jobs. a lot of people shifted back and forth. a lot of new jobs were being created. during the recession, the number dropped to 4.3. since the recovery took hold, since we started the recovery 33 months ago, that number has fallen to 4.9 -- i am sorry, 3.9.
12:52 am
we are starting fewer new jobs than during the recession. that is how damaging the threat of the tax increases that several people have spoken of. not only the tax increases that have hit already, those that start in the year. a lot of the increases were deftly put off until later so they would by people in the ankle after the next election. so people should double check not just the taxes that have been imposed on us now, but the taxes that will automatically be imposed. how much in one year? $494 billion in 2013 as our friend the j.d. foster commented earlier. the worst thing that high taxes do is kill jobs. >> [inaudible]
12:53 am
>> it would be a net tax cut if you just did those two things. what would be wrong with that? >> everybody expects the tax would be continued into the future. it is being held hostage this year. when the amt tax -- obama is once again saying i will tax the rich people. what did he really do? he is rejiggering the amt -- prefiguring the amt tax. he is moving the playing field a few yards and starting all over again. the amt needs to be abolished,
12:54 am
not rejiggered. it may take a different president to do that, because anything that did not happen in 2009 and 2010, obama and read and pelosi do not want to do. when obama says i want to fixed amt, he had a majority of the house and senate for two years, and every day he woke up and all day they did not cut the amt are in debt. they went to bed that night and said that was a fine day. they did that for two years in a row, and now in front of an election, we are supposed to believe that they really had this burning desire to get rid of the amt? we have had two years to know that is not what they intended to do. so they are not telling the truth when they say this is what they want to do. when they could have done it, they did not do it.
12:55 am
this is mark twain's observation that everybody thinks they will go to heaven and play the harp, but here on earth, very few people play the harp. what would you say later on i am going to do something? the president had a chance to get rid of the amt, but for two years and a row did nothing. thank you very much for joining us. see it in the year, unless the income tax has gone away. -- see you in a year. >> the general services administration inspector general said today that he is investigating possible bribery and kickbacks in the agency. that hearing is next on c-span. then, a pentagon briefing on the recent attacks in afghanistan. tuesday and "washington journal," republican congressman dennis frost on federal work
12:56 am
force joins us to talk about the investigation into wasteful spending by the general services administration -- representative dennis ross. then embodies got will discuss efforts in congress to end racial profiling by state and federal law enforcement officials. we will speak with a usa today reporter to learn more about the conservative, a nonprofit organization known as the american legislative exchange council and its influence in congress. washington journal airs at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. >> the former head of the general services administration apologized for a four-day las vegas area conference in 2010 that cost taxpayers over $800,000. of the johnson resigned after the gsa inspector general released a report on the
12:57 am
conference -- martha johnson resigned. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2012]
12:58 am
>> the committee will come to order. we were read our mission statement. today it is particularly important that we read it. the mission statement is that we exist to secure to fundamental principles.
12:59 am
first, americans have a right to know that the money washington take from them is well spent. second, americans deserve an efficient, effective government that works for them. our duty on the oversight and government reform committee is to protect these rights. our solemn responsibility is to hold government accountable to taxpayers, because tax payers have a right to know what they get from their government. it is our job to work tirelessly in partnership with citizen watchdogs to deliver the facts to the american people and bring genuine reform to the federal bureaucracy. this is our mission statement, and i might add, citizens' watchdog includes inspector general's. we are here today to get answers to questions that should have been asked and answered long, long time ago. the details that have come to light about the tsa conference held in las vegas have


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on