Defense Department Faces More Conference Scrutiny

The U.S. Army spent $10.7 million on a 2010 conference, about 13 times the cost of a GSA conference that drew congressional scrutiny. The Army says comparing them would be "unfair," however.

Now it’s the U.S. Army’s turn.

Just weeks after the release of an independent report scrutinizing a Veterans Affairs conference, and days after reports of a memo blocking spending on entertainment, the Department of Defense finds itself the target of scrutiny for a completely different conference.

And in this case, it’s one run by an association. The annual conference of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), taking place October 22 to 24 in Washington, D.C., will be a smaller affair than it has been in previous years — with the Army cutting 88 percent of its budget for the 2012 conference.

They got in trouble for spa treatments and iPods. That just doesn’t happen here.

That still won’t be small, though — the conference, which is organized outside of the Army’s jurisdiction, will still cost the agency $1.3 million for 400 attendees, which is less than the General Services Administration (GSA) conference.

But compared with the previous four years — in which the Army spent $37.7 million for 9,805 service members to attend the conference — it’s a significant decrease. (The Army typically makes up a quarter of the conference’s attendance.)

For what it’s worth, an Army spokesman says comparing the GSA event to next week’s event would be missing the point.

“A comparison to GSA or even VA would not only be inaccurate, but unfair,” Michael Brady, a Pentagon-based spokesman, told Bloomberg. “They got in trouble for spa treatments and iPods. That just doesn’t happen here.”

Part of the reason why spending on the current conference is much smaller? Funding limitations. While the Army received an exception for conferences topping $500,000, the agency will have just 10 organizations and commands displaying exhibits this year. The conference, which draws about 35,000 attendees yearly, generally has 600 industry and military exhibits.

Does your association rely on significant numbers of government employees showing up at your annual meetings? If so, are you working on contingency plans?

(via Bloomberg)

(TMG archive photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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