The federal government is offering $90,000 to people who can help reduce its travel costs.
Uncle Sam spends about $9 billion annually on travel, and the General Services Administration is turning to its own crowdsourcing website for help reducing that tab. GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy opened its Travel Data Challenge on Challenge.gov last week, asking the public to create a “digital interactive tool” that highlights the shortcomings and inefficiencies of current government travel policy.
GSA is “looking to bring a quantitative approach to the data the federal government collects in order to help agencies make smarter business decisions, and to allow them to drive greater saving and efficiencies,” according to the posting. The grand prize winner will receive $35,000, the runner up $30,000 and the honorable mention recipient $25,000.
The Obama administration has frequently targeted travel expenses as a means to reduce spending, including a memo instructing agencies to reduce travels costs by 30 percent compared to fiscal 2010 from 2013 through 2016. While the new tool will not be made public, the initiative aims to enhance internal transparency and increase accountability for travel expenses at each agency.
GSA will provide interested parties with sample travel data from its own expenditures, but wants a tool adaptable for every agency. It should ultimately provide new information beyond what is already readily available and identify what information the government is not collecting but should.
The tool should use visual displays to show primary cost drivers, GSA said, and allow travel managers to monitor travelers’ behaviors and suggest improvements. The winning proposal will not just conveniently gather and display data but actively provide recommendations for how agencies can operate more efficiently.
The program should evaluate trends such as the cheapest time of year to travel and how far in advance travelers should book their trips.