GSA Scandal: Crack Down on Waste Will Impact Travel

In the wake of the General Services Administration (GSA) scandal over excessive conference and travel expenses, the travel industry is expected to take a multimillion dollar hit, including destinations.

The White House  Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued new guidance to Federal agencies to scrutinize travel and conference budgets, including requiring agencies to decrease spending on travel by 30 percent.

The moves will require federal agencies to review any conference where the agency spending could exceed $100,000 and prohibit agencies from spending over $500,000 on a conference unless the agency’s Secretary approves a waiver.

The guidelines also  require agencies to post publicly each January on the prior year’s conference spending, including descriptions of agency conferences that cost more than $100,000.

Jeff Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, announced the moves, which follow earlier OMB-directed cuts 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," OMB said.

OMB reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has already generated more than $13 million in travel cost avoidance while the State Department will hold the majority of their conferences in government facilities as opposed to renting hotels.

OMB said that the Department of Agriculture has reduced travel spending by $47 million by reducing the number of conferences and increasing the use of video conference technology. "So far, these efforts and others have already produced more than $280 million in reduced costs in the first quarter of FY 2012 compared to the same period in FY 2010," OMB said.

"Today’s guidance is part of our aggressive efforts to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely without sacrificing the ability of the government to deliver for the American people. And by reinvesting immediate savings in program integrity efforts that increase transparency and accountability and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse, we will realize even greater savings over time," Zients said.