OMB cracks down on travel costs

As legislation intended to prevent conference-related spending abuses works its way through Congress, the Office of Management and Budget is taking immediate action. In a memo issued May 11, OMB Director Jeff Zients imposed new limitations on agency travel and conferences.

They include:

  • Agencies must decrease spending on travel by 30 percent;
  • Deputy secretaries must review any conference where the agency spending could exceed $100,000;
  • Agencies may not spend more than $500,000 on a conference unless the agency’s Secretary approves a waiver;
  • Agencies must post publicly each January on the prior year’s conference spending, including descriptions of agency conferences that cost more than $100,000.

"This new guidance builds upon work already underway to scrutinize travel and conference budgets," Zients wrote in a blog entry announcing the new rules. "Last September, for instance, OMB directed agency leadership to conduct thorough reviews of their agency’s spending in travel and conference spending. As a result, federal agencies have begun implementing plans to achieve nearly $1.2 billion in travel and conference savings."

The Homeland Security department has already generated more than $13 million in travel cost avoidance, while the State Department has decided to hold the majority of their conferences in government facilities rather than hotels, he wrote. Meanwhile, the Agriculture department has increased its use of video conferencing and saved $47 million in reduced travel costs.

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