OMB Issues New Guidance on Conferences

New guidelines from the White House Office of Management and Budget, developed with the help of ASAE and other associations, provide agencies with best practices for approving travel and conference expenses for federal employees.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) this week provided federal agencies with additional guidance on travel and attendance at conferences, predicting that cutbacks will continue but recognizing the value of federal employees’ in-person attendance and interaction with other professionals.

Given the unique travel and conference needs of each agency, there are circumstances in which physical collocation is necessary to complete the mission.

In a memo [PDF] sent to agencies’ chief financial officers, OMB acknowledged the need for federal employees to attend mission-related conferences and provided best practices for approving travel and conference expenses. While saying that sequestration budget cuts will likely continue to result in reduced government participation in conferences and travel, OMB stressed that federal agencies should not interpret any recent administration guidance as a moratorium on travel or conference attendance.

“As each agency reviews its travel and conference-related activities, it is critical for each agency to continue to recognize the important role that mission-related travel and conferences can often play in government operations,” OMB said. “Given the unique travel and conference needs of each agency, there are circumstances in which physical collocation is necessary to complete the mission.”

After meeting with OMB officials in March, ASAE worked with other associations to draft a protocol for conference planners to use in putting together meetings attended by federal employees. OMB adopted many of the protocol’s suggested best practices, such as hotel costs that are within government per diem rates and ensuring that social events held in conjunction with a conference aren’t lavish or excessive.

“We are pleased to see the new guidance from OMB stressing the value of professional development and face-to-face meetings,” said ASAE President and CEO John H. Graham IV, CAE. “ASAE and its members worked with OMB to suggest guidelines that would be beneficial for government employees, so they could attend association meetings for business purposes, for training, and to discover the latest trends occurring in the private sector. This is a great example of associations and government working together to develop guidelines, so both sectors can benefit from face-to-face meetings.”

In addition to providing guidelines for acceptable travel and conference expenses, the OMB memo requires that agencies report the costs and contracting procedures for any government conference exceeding $100,000 to their agency’s inspector general’s office.

Though the memo was issued to federal agencies, OMB and ASAE encouraged association meeting professionals to consult the OMB guidance when planning conferences and events to increase the likelihood that federal employees can attend.



Chris Vest, CAE

By Chris Vest, CAE

Chris Vest, CAE is vice president, corporate communications and public relations at ASAE. MORE

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