WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Travel Association today encouraged Congress to respond to an irresponsible 2010 General Services Administration (GSA) conference by holding accountable the federal employees that planned the event. The statement comes after Senator Rand Paul asked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to investigate all government conferences held in Las Vegas, NV.
Dow also noted that the federal government should conduct travel on the basis of necessity, cost and value provided to the taxpayer, which would not exclude any destination in the country from receiving government business.
"If Congress is serious about curbing wasteful government spending, they should encourage federal employees to seek the best value when traveling and to follow the rules when doing so," said Dow. "Responsible and cost-effective government travel is a must, no matter where it occurs. Excessive government spending is wrong, no matter where it occurs. Congress should consider nothing else beyond these two principles when dealing with this issue – or they risk ostracizing one group of hardworking Americans in favor of another."
Dear Travel Colleague:
I have cautioned that it was possible the travel industry could face significant challenges as fallout from the Government Services Administration's (GSA) actions. While more Congressional hearings on the matter have produced no new significant developments, members of Congress are already beginning to take action related to future federal meetings and conferences:
- A Senate transportation appropriations bill this week had an amendment approved that would require specific reporting to the Inspector General, which is currently not mandated, to account for any conference costing more than $20,000.
- In addition, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) is seeking an inquiry on how many government agencies have held conferences in Las Vegas during the past three years. Sen. Paul's request has been vigorously assailed by members of the Nevada delegation as being politically motivated, with a reminder of the impact those meetings have on the hard-working members of the travel community. Still, it is clear during this election year we can expect the value of meetings and conferences to be a visible political football to be kicked around.
- As previously noted, Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) said he would introduce a bill to ban lavish GSA conferences. U.S. Travel is in contact with his office to craft a responsible proposal that does not discourage ethical GSA conferences.
- We believe that federal agency Inspectors General will begin to investigate whether federal officials are receiving kick-backs and bribes for meetings and conference contracts. We are concerned that this issue – if improperly understood – could spread to other federal agencies and the private sector.
- Finally, the House Oversight Committee is in the process of reviewing travel records of 23 federal agencies dating back to 2005. This will undoubtedly lead to further allegations of excessive government spending on travel and further pressure to review federal travel budgets.
U.S. Travel will continue to engage Congressional leaders on the value of meetings, conferences, and government travel, and reinforce that instances of excessive spending on travel are the result of poor decision-making and a failure to follow federal travel regulations.
We are working closely with those members who are considering legislation and additional regulations on federal travel to ensure an appropriate and measured response. To coordinate a united and powerful response to this crisis, we will continue to partner with the Society of Government Travel Professionals, the Society of Government Meeting Planners and a myriad of associations involved with meetings and event planning.
I will continue to keep you informed of ongoing developments.
Roger J. Dow
President & CEO