DOD, other agencies now under the microscope on conference costs

In the wake of the General Service Administration's conference-spending scandal that erupted in April, many more agencies are suddenly under examination for conference costs. The Defense Department may be next on the list of organizations to receive the financial scrutiny, according to CQ.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is asking Pentagon leadership to provide detailed spending information on 64 conferences held in recent years that exceeded the roughly $823,000 price tag of the Las Vegas conference over which GSA was criticized. The Veterans Affairs department is facing similar criticisms over two conferences held in Florida in 2011.

In an Aug. 22 letter Issa called on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to furnish by Sept. 5 further information on a number of specific conferences held by DOD that surpassed the “benchmark” cost of the GSA conference in Las Vegas. Events costing more than GSA's are automatic red flags for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs and which is investigating federal agency conference spending in response to what happened at GSA.

“GSA’s 2010 conference in Las Vegas cost taxpayers more than $3,000 per attendee…in other words, it cost more than $500 per attendee, per day for the five-day conference. The committee used these figures…as benchmarks to identify conference held by DOD where wasteful or excessive spending may have occurred,” Issa wrote.

Issa went on to specify a list of dozens of DOD conferences that have raised the committee members' suspicions.

“Documents provided by DOD in response to the committee’s April 10, 2012 request for information showed the department held 64 conferences for which the cost per person exceeded that of the infamous GSA Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas,” he wrote. “As part of the committee’s ongoing investigation into government-wide spending on conferences, I request additional information about those conferences.”

The conferences in question took place between December 2006 and September 2011. Many were held stateside, including in and near Washington, but others took place overseas in locations like Burkina Faso, Thailand, Belize and various parts of South America and Europe.

DOD isn’t the only agency being ordered to produce detailed conference spending data: nine other agencies face the same request to provide details on a total of 89 conferences, according to Federal Times. Among them are the Social Security Administration, U.S. Agency for International Development and the departments of Education, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Health and Human Services. Those are in addition to the 64 DOD conferences in question.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

Reader comments

Fri, Oct 12, 2012

While DOD Conference spending is being targeted, why not look at DOD and Government Contractor spending as a real eye opener of tax payer dollars wasted.....

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 Fed (Up) in Va

Rep. Issa is trying to get reelected by attacking the 'wasteful' spending of government agencies. Just because DoD conferences exceeded the GSA conference, doesn't automatically mean they overspent. What he coudl have done is ask all agencies to send a report on the last 2-3 years and show the total costs for conferences attended and breakdowns of how many attended, what the cost per attendee was, exactly what events were being hosted, and other relevant info. Then if it looks like too much was spent, he could ask for more details or go further back. If there are agencies that overspent, dpending on the amount, it could have been unintentional. He should have guidelines written up for budget submissions that show a more detailed breakdown of the amount of money being requested so it can be justified.

Fri, Aug 24, 2012

Because of the GSA instance, certain persons in Congress are pushing for investigations on the cost of conferences for the last 5-7 years at multiple Government agencies. I'm sure that they 'may' find some cost-abuse or, at least, something to question. However, there are required checks already in place for conference costs. Have those processes been ignored or are the processes working but none of the findings have been news-worthy up until now? Are members of Congress spending more money requiring the agencies to immediately file new type of reporting on all these conferences? Since there was reported only one issue, in one service of one agency, what could be the justification for requiring ALL these agencies to go through an investigative process....could it be election time?

Fri, Aug 24, 2012

I wonder if Congress will scrutinize itself too. Their pandering amazes me.

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 Go-Joe

I suggest Congressmen be subject to the same public and hyped inspection of their 'conferences' and other boondoggle trips.

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