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Oversight measures designed to reel in government travel are paying off, while at least one member of Congress sees the danger in curtailing government employee travel too much. ASAE also finds fault with the way government is reducing travel spending.
At a House subcommittee meeting on federal travel this week, Office of Management and Budget controller Daniel I. Werfel reported that travel spending by government employees dropped by $2 billion from 2010 to 2012. In 2010, Government Services Administration officials resigned over what was discovered to be excessive spending on a conference in Las Vegas.
Soon afterward, OMB directed government agencies to reduce travel spending for 2013 by at least 30 percent from 2010 levels, and keep them there through 2016. Also, senior management approval now is required for conference spending over certain levels, and this year agencies began online posting of annual conference spending over $100,000, Werfel told testified, according to the Washington Post.
Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.) who also testified, cautioned that in ensuring oversight of expenditures, "we also should work to preserve the many benefits of appropriate travel, which can promote collaboration and innovation," the Post reported. Holt is a physicist, and he noted the benefits of meetings to his profession.
He cautioned in his submitted testimony that oversight rules “initiate prohibitions and impediments that would hinder American scientists’ ability to collaborate and communicate with scientists at other institutions and laboratories.”
ASAE CEO and 2013 Association Executive of the Year John Graham IV, CAE, also submitted testimony. Noting the greater value of face-to-face meetings than technological communications, Graham said: "In these times of tight budgets and economic uncertainty, it would be foolish to not recognize the necessity of controlled government spending. However, blanket restrictions that universally prohibit travel either in response to an unrelated type of conference or just the need to rein in spending does the country a long-term harm. The dual goals of public-private partnership and good government can be achieved simultaneously without severing attendance at private meetings."