Managers Coalition to Lawmakers: Not All Conferences Are Bad


A coalition of federal managers associations on Wednesday cautioned lawmakers against “extreme restrictions” on conference and travel spending.

In a Feb. 27 letter, the Government Managers Coalition told Reps. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., who held a hearing on federal conference and travel spending on Wednesday, that past abuses should not prohibit the legitimate use of events fostering collaboration with other federal employees and outside stakeholders. The GMC consists of five federal executive managers associations, and represents more than 200,000 managers in the federal government.

They argued that legislation proposed in the 112th Congress would have curtailed and restricted federal conference spending excessively, and said such measures  would be detrimental for employees seeking to develop new skills, network and collaborate.

“While this may seem appropriate on its face, blanket reductions do not generally address the problem of mismanagement,” they wrote.

The coalition argued that conferences are necessary to promote “idea-sharing and collaboration on innovative projects,” and argued that many federal employees need to gain specific certifications at conferences in order to do their jobs. Several scientific organizations made a similar case in a letter to the White House last year, saying that restrictions on travel and conferences were hindering exchange of knowledge and inhibiting technical research.

“For example employees from the Federal Aviation Administration and Social Security Administration receive mission critical training and developmental opportunities at their meetings,” the coalition noted in Wednesday’s letter.

The letter follows congressional testimony by Office of Management and Budget Controller Danny Werfel on Wednesday, where he told Farenthold and Lynch's panel  that the Obama administration had curbed travel and conference spending by nearly $2 billion between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2012. Werfel said in a memo released on Wednesday that across-the-board budget cuts from sequestration on March 1 could mean further reductions for conference and travel budgets.

Still, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a factsheet Wednesday criticizing federal agencies for spending $267.6 million on “big ticket” conferences in fiscal 2012. Members of Congress, including Rep. Jim Jordan R-Ohio, already have started aiming new legislation at what they see as excessive conference and travel spending.  

The managers coalition encouraged congressional leaders to enhance mechanisms to oversee conference spending and prevent waste. They said that watchdogs should evaluate conference and travel spending on a case-by-case basis, and discouraged the use of an across-the-board budget cut to limit it.

“It is our experience that there is never a one–size-fits-all policy and exceptions always exist,” the coalition wrote. “Agencies should have flexibility to determine what travel, meetings and conferences are a necessary expense.”

(Image via Pojoslaw/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.