Travel spending by federal agencies has fallen 27 percent since 2010—a result of new restrictions in the wake of several conference scandals—but it can’t drop much more, according to a media analysis that predicts federal travel spending will stabilize in the next few years.
Even if far fewer federal employees are traveling now than did in 2010, there’s some good news that organizations relying on federal meeting attendees can take from that: It can’t get much worse.
That’s according to an analysis of federal travel spending records by Federal Times. The article notes that, on the whole, travel spending by agencies has fallen by 27 percent since fiscal year 2010—from $9.5 billion that year to $6.9 billion through fiscal 2013, based on receipts from the General Services Administration’s SmartPay charge-card program. Travel spending thus far in fiscal 2014 has dropped to $4.1 billion, based on estimates through May, an 8 percent decrease from last year. By the end of the fiscal year, the decline is expected to hit the 30 percent mark required by a 2012 order from the Office and Management and Budget.
I think for the next fiscal year it will probably [be] business as usual.
According to travel experts who spoke with Federal Times, this suggests that travel spending by federal agencies will likely plateau as efforts to cut costs reach their limits but no additional spending is authorized.
“I think for the next fiscal year it will probably [be] business as usual. I don’t think we are going to see any huge increases over the next couple years,” Scott Lamb, Hilton Hotels’ director of government sales, told the publication.
The travel-spending stats come at a time when members of Congress are continuing to look at ways to rein in costs after a wave of conference scandals—including, notably, one that emerged from the GSA itself. One bill, the Conference Accountability Act, was pulled from a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing late last month to allow for more research and debate on the measure.
But even without new legislation, belts are tightening, thanks to the OMB order and a 2013 OMB guidance on how agencies should evaluate travel needs and what constitutes acceptable travel expenses.