Flier's Poker

Defense outspends the rest of government combined.

Driven by Defense Department expenditures, agency spending on travel boomed in fiscal 2005, up $2.2 billion to $15.4 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Travel buying increased significantly at the Homeland Security Department, rising from $849 million to $940 million. But even that was small change compared with the Pentagon's increase-from $8.9 billion in 2004 to $10.9 billion in 2005. The $2 billion rise is rivaled only by a $1.7 billion gain between 2002 and 2003. Travel spending by the military is now more than double that of all other federal agencies combined.

The 2005 governmentwide increase is nearly double the $1.3 billion rise in 2004, but travel expenditures were for the most part flat outside Defense and Homeland Security.

Other top travelers include the Justice, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs departments. Justice, at $395 million, spent less than half than Homeland Security. Agriculture and VA have been battling for the No. 4 spot on the top travelers list for several years with Agriculture reclaiming the position it lost in 2004, spending $366 million in 2005, up from $329 million in 2004. VA spending increased $18 million to $348 million in 2005.

The largest drop in travel spending occurred at the Transportation Department, which spent $231 million in 2004, but only $206 million in 2005. Three other departments-Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Labor-saw spending slump by a combined $12 million. The Securities and Exchange Commission, at the bottom of the list, dropped $11 million on travel.

According to the General Services Administration, agencies spent more than $3.4 billion of their travel money on airfare, just under $2 billion on hotels and $378 million renting automobiles in 2005. United Airlines managed to hold on to its spot at the top of the market with $846 million in sales, followed closely by Delta Air Lines with $718 million. American Airlines again came in No. 3 with $491 million in sales. Combined, the three companies dominate the federal market, with 24.8 percent, 21 percent and 14.4 percent shares, respectively; American's percent slipped slightly from last year.

Marriott hotels, Holiday Inns, Residence Inns and Hilton hotels were the most popular destinations for federal travelers in 2005. The four chains accounted for a quarter of the $1.99 billion federal hotel market. Marriott International Inc. held on to the top spot with $146 million followed by Holiday Inn with $142 million. Residence Inn by Marriott brought in $125 million followed by Hilton Hotels Corp. with $114 million. No other hotel chain exceeded 4 percent of the market.

Hertz Corp. remains the preferred auto rental shop, netting $76.4 million-20.2 percent of all cars. Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Avis Rent a Car, Budget Rent a Car and National Car Rental followed.

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