OMB unties a few of the travel, conference spending knots

A CFO Alert tells agencies the White House would listen to proposals to spend more money on travel and conferences in 2015.

The Office of Management and Budget is giving agencies a little more wiggle room to spend money on training and conferences.

In a CFO alert sent to agency financial managers on Jan. 16, OMB reminded agencies they must continue to maintain a spending level on travel expenses that is 30 percent lower than fiscal 2010. But OMB says if agencies have “new mission critical travel needs not captured in the original FY 2012 travel reduction targets, OMB will entertain proposals for baseline adjustment.”

The CFO Alert also says the agency’s deputy secretary can delegate approval for spending on conferences to an appropriate senior executive as they are more likely more familiar with the subject of the conference.

“Each agency is responsible for implementing its own internal travel and conference policies, and each agency needs to achieve the right balance between reducing spending and meeting mission critical needs,” the alert stated. “As each agency reviews its travel and conference-related activities, it is critical to continue to recognize the important role that mission- related travel and conferences can often play in government operations. To prevent lengthy and cumbersome review processes that could hinder an agency’s ability to carry out their mission in an efficient and effective manner, agencies should pre-approve known reoccurring conferences and attendance at non-government sponsored conferences. Pre-approving an event does not exclude it from annual reporting requirements.”

In May 2012, OMB issued new guidance requiring agencies to cut the amount of money they spend on travel and conferences starting in 2013 and keep it at that amount through 2016. The administration also prohibited agencies from spending more than $500,000 on any one conference unless the secretary issues a waiver, and required reporting for any a conference spending that exceeded $100,000.

OMB issued the memo in the wake of the General Services Administration’s Western Regions conference scandal.

Agencies still must report their annual conference spending to OMB and make it publicly available. For example, GSA reported it had no conferences in excess of $100,000 in either of the last two fiscal years. The Defense Department reported that it hosted 95 conferences in 2014 that exceeded the $100,000 threshold.

The Washington Post first reported the CFO Alert.


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