DOD Tightens Spending on Travel, Conferences
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2012 In response to a May 11 call to action from the Office of Management and Budget, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter has directed DOD officials and managers to reduce spending on travel, conferences and other agency operations.
“DOD consistently strives to be an excellent steward of taxpayer dollars and has focused on these issues for a number of years,” Carter said in a June 3 memo.
Such efforts, he added, include the 2010 Secretary’s Efficiency Initiative and implementation of President Barack Obama’s June 2011 Campaign to Cut Waste.
In his memo, Carter directs the DOD comptroller to reduce travel expenses for fiscal year 2013 by 30 percent from DOD’s fiscal 2010 baseline, excluding national security exemptions and without harming agency missions.
The deputy secretary also directs the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness to work with DOD components and services to implement a conference policy that establishes standard, tiered approval levels for conference spending.
Effective immediately, Carter is directing a review of upcoming conferences and temporarily suspending new conference obligations. The deputy secretary will personally review conferences that will cost more than $500,000. The department’s Deputy Chief Management Officer Elizabeth McGrath will review conferences whose costs exceed $100,000.
DOD will report back to OMB, the deputy secretary said, on proposed reductions in these areas within 90 days, and in some cases 180 days, of the May 11 memo.
Carter said McGrath would coordinate DOD implementation of OMB’s Executive-Branch-wide policies and practices involving travel, conferences, real estate and fleet management.
“Increased scrutiny is being applied to DOD spending,” McGrath told American Forces Press Service, “which makes it more important than ever that we continue to instill a culture of cost consciousness and accountability across the Defense enterprise.”
The department has always taken its duty to be an excellent steward of taxpayer dollars very seriously, she added.
“The appropriate offices for each of the areas discussed in the memorandum -- travel, conferences, real estate, and fleet management -- will work together to ensure that we are fully complying with the deputy secretary’s direction,” McGrath said, “and that we are making the best use of government funds.”
The deputy chief management officer added, “It is important for us to assess our travel costs and practices to ensure that we maximize alternatives to travel, such as teleconferencing, that we combine trips when possible to minimize the frequency of travel, and that we send the right people to the right events.”
McGrath said conferences can serve many important purposes, including training, professional development and continuing education opportunities required for professional accreditation.
As the increased spending efficiencies are put in place, she added, “we must ensure that these cuts do not lead to degradation of mission effectiveness.”