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Scientists, engineers push back on travel cuts

Oct. 25, 2012 - 02:58PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments

Research and engineering groups are decrying proposed legislation that would severely cut agency conference and travel spending.

In a Sept. 10 letter to lawmakers and Obama administration officials, four professional associations representing science, technology and engineering specialists said proposed bills to cut travel and conference spending will curtail the ability of agencies and scientists to meet and exchange research and ideas. The associations are: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; U.S. Public Policy Council of the Association for Computing Machinery; Computing Research Association; and Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

“Government researchers — as well as researchers funded by the government, and the program managers who determine funding — need to be able to participate in these effects,” the groups wrote.

The pending legislation — the GSA Act, the Data Act and the 21st Century Postal Reform Act — would all limit conference spending by agencies and put in place detailed reporting requirements for any conference spending.

The bills were introduced in response to an April 2 General Services Administration inspector general report detailing lavish and wasteful spending at an $823,000 2010 conference in Las Vegas that featured a mind reader and extravagant hotel room parties.

In May, the Office of Management and Budget directed agencies to cut travel spending by 30 percent in 2013 from 2010 levels.

But scientific and technical conferences already have review procedures in place to help control spending, according to the letter.

“We believe that existing oversight and review measures for scientific and technical conferences meet the spirit, if not the letter, of the proposed restrictions,” the organizations wrote.

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