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Agencies must cut travel by 30% beginning in October

May. 11, 2012 - 04:27PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments

Last Friday, the Office of Management and Budget ordered agencies to cut travel spending 30 percent by next year in comparison with fiscal 2010 levels.

In 2010, agencies spent about $16.7 billion on travel, according to federal budget documents. A cut of 30 percent — or roughly $5 billion — would result in a total federal travel budget of $11.7 billion.

The White House’s 2013 budget request sets travel spending at $12.9 billion, a 23 percent drop from 2010 levels.

Thad Juszczak, a former career federal budget executive now at consulting firm Grant Thornton, said total 2013 travel spending still may end up near the $12.9 billion figure set in the president’s budget request because the newly ordered travel cuts will not apply to trips deemed essential for national security and other critical government functions.

In a blog post accompanying his six-page memo on the administration’s plans to cut travel spending, acting http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/05/11/continuing-crack-down-government-waste">OMB Director Jeff Zients said, “the new guidance builds upon work already under way to scrutinize travel and conference budgets.” Any savings from the travel cuts are supposed to be plowed back into projects aimed at making spending more open and accountable.

Starting next year, agencies will also have to publicly report all conferences costing more than $100,000; the new restrictions set a $500,000 cap on spending for a single conference by any one agency.

While the White House had ordered agencies last September to review conference expenses, the crackdown follows an uproar over the recent disclosure that General Services Administration employees spent $823,000 on a 2010 Las Vegas conference that featured a mind reader and in-room parties. In separate bills, both the House and Senate have approved their own limits on conference spending, although neither measure has won final passage.

Agencies can get waivers if trips are deemed essential to national security, health and safety inspections, oversight activities and other “critical government functions,” Zients said.

The new reporting requirements take effect in January. For all conferences costing more than a net of $100,000, agencies will have to annually list on their websites the total expense of the gathering, the location, and a brief justification of how the gathering advanced the agency’s mission. Absent a compelling reason, agencies are barred from spending more than $500,000 on any single conference.

The memo also sets other limits:

• Agency officials must hold on to government-owned sedans for at least three years or for 60,000 miles before turning them in.

• Agencies must not increase the total size of their real estate holdings. When acquiring new federal building space, they should offset it through consolidation, co-location or disposal of property elsewhere, Zients wrote.

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