Federal travelers could have fewer lodging options

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Per diem rates for federal travelers could take a dive in fiscal 2013.

The General Services Administration reportedly is considering changes to the methodology it uses to calculate lodging rates for government travelers. The review is part of a governmentwide effort to comply with a May memorandum from the Office of Management and Budget that directs agencies to spend at least 30 percent less on travel than they did in fiscal 2010 for the next three fiscal years.

GSA has not made a decision yet on the new per diem rates, said GSA Deputy Press Secretary Dan Cruz, adding that GSA will implement the May OMB directive on agency travel and conferences, including decreasing spending by 30 percent compared to fiscal 2010. “We will continue to engage our industry partners as we undertake this review of per diem rates,” Cruz said by email.

GSA will announce the fiscal 2013 per diem rates by Sept. 1, and they will take effect Oct. 1.

Hotel and lodging industry officials have said lower per diem rates will mean fewer choices for federal travelers, particularly in more expensive urban areas. GSA is considering whether it will ditch pricier hotels from its roster, lowering the overall per diem average, according to a July 5 report in Federal Times.

GSA establishes per diem rates for lodging and meal expenses in the continental United States. A standard per diem is applied in locations less commonly traveled by federal workers, while nonstandard areas frequently visited are granted individual rates based on the average daily industry rate. The standard lodging rate, which covers hotels in 2,600 counties nationwide, is $77 a night. Lodging per diem rates vary according to region and time of year, however. For example, 2012 rates for Washington range from $183 to $226; in New York City, the lodging per diem ranges from $204 to $295.

GSA has been under fire during the past several months for lavish spending on conferences and other travel billed to taxpayers. Earlier this week, House lawmakers blasted the agency during a congressional hearing over charges that it awarded excessive bonuses to employees.

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