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OMB and ASAE help avoid the elimination of government conferences

Helping to ensure cost-effective conferences and travel in the wake of sequestration, across the board federal budget cuts beginning March 1, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) collaborated with American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).

This group effort may help prevent the total elimination of government conferences.

“Agencies are shifting toward more cost-effective practices to ensure that necessary conferences are planned and executed efficiently and at minimal expense to the taxpayer,” said Daniel I. Werfel, a former controller with OMB. As an office within the Executive Office of the President of the United States (EOP), OMB assists President Barack Obama in overseeing the preparation of the federal budget.

The budget cuts could result in reduced government participation in conferences and work-related travel. In his February testimony before the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and the Census House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Werfel named instances where government-wide conferences were eliminated, reduced or consolidated. He cited that the Department of Defense (DOD) reduced attendees and combined or canceled several conferences.

Illustrated in a memo by OMB to offer guidance not a moratorium was the importance for federal employees to attend mission-related conferences, such as unique training events for those in law enforcement or when performing formal inspections as part of an agency’s oversight and investigatory responsibilities.

“We are pleased to see the new guidance from OMB stressing the value of professional development and face-to-face meetings,” said John H. Graham IV, president and CEO, ASAE, a  membership organization of more than 21,000 association executives and industry partners representing 10,000 organizations. “This is a great example of associations and government working together to develop guidelines, so both sectors can benefit from face-to-face meetings.”

Determining conferences and travel polices is left up to each federal agency, but OMB recommended federal agencies find the balance between reducing spending and meeting mission-critical needs.

Suggestions from OMB include confirming that federal employees physical presence is needed to carry out the agency’s mission, having agency heads and deputy secretaries approve conferences that cost more than $100,000, ensuring hotel prices are within government guidelines for per diem rates and more.


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