During the past decade, travel and conference expenses for the Department of Defense (DoD), and many other Federal Agencies, increased to a level that recently caught the attention of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and DoD leadership.

In response to a recent General Services Administration (GSA) travel and conference scandal and in light of recently proposed budget cuts, drastic changes have been taken into consideration, and new guidelines have been implemented for travel and conference costs.

In May of this year the president called for all federal agencies to reduce travel costs by 30 percent for fiscal year 2013. In response, DoD managers were directed to cut travel expenses for conference and additional agency operations by the Deputy Defense Secretary and OPM.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter signed an order on June 3, 2012, which implemented a freeze and requires service chiefs to review all upcoming conferences costing more than $100,000 to ensure that they “significantly further the Department’s mission.”

“Increased scrutiny is being applied to DOD spending,” Deputy Chief Management Officer Elizabeth McGrath said, “which makes it more important than ever that we continue to instill a culture of cost consciousness and accountability across the Defense enterprise.”

The Government Spending Accountability Act of 2012 requires the head of each federal agency to submit to congress, not less frequently than quarterly, a detailed, itemized report on any conference or meeting for which the agency must pay a fee and that:

(1) Is attended by 50 or more employees, or

(2) Has a total cost of $100,000 or more. Exempts any conference or meeting:

  1. For which an agency head determines complying with such reporting requirement would not be in the interest of national security, or
  2. Which an agency head determines is necessary because of an imminent threat to health or safety or other emergency.


In addition to increased reporting requirements, the proposed bill also mandates reducing conference spending by 70 percent of 2010 travel cost figures, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis. The bill also limits spending for a single conference to no more than $500,000.


Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who currently works as a professional writer, blogger, social media expert, commentator, editor and public affairs practitioner. Diana previously worked as an editor and senior communications analyst for the Department of Defense.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.