GSA releases 2003 per diem rates

The General Services Administration has announced 2003 federal per diem rates, leaving most lodging rates unchanged from this year.

The new rates for official business travel by federal employees take effect Oct. 1 and can be downloaded from GSA's Web site. GSA published the rates Aug. 30 in the Federal Register.

GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy decided to hold most lodging rates at fiscal 2002 levels and to maintain the standard continental United States (CONUS) rate of $55 for lodging and $30 for meals and incidental expenses (M&IE). GSA establishes the standard CONUS per diem rate for all cities not specifically shown in per diem rate listings.

But M&IE rates increased in more than 400 cities, and a new $50 M&IE rate was created for San Diego; San Francisco; Palo Alto; San Jose; Los Angeles; Detroit; Minneapolis/St. Paul; Chicago; St. Louis; Manhattan; Cincinnati; Philadelphia; Seattle; Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, Mass.

Several new cities made it onto the per diem list this year: Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Fresno, Calif.; Redding, Calif.; Grand Junction, Colo.; Storrs, Conn.; Dublin, Ga.; Newport, Ky.; Cambridge, Md.; St. Robert/Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.; Greenville, N.C.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Tacoma, Wash.; and Fredericksburg, Va. The lodging rate in Pensacola, Fla., went up from $70 to $85.

GSA is continuing to expand its Federal Premier Lodging Program, which seeks to guarantee that a certain number of rooms are available within the per diem rate in specific geographical areas. Before the program was launched, there was no guarantee that rooms would be available at the federal rate.

Currently the program covers Huntsville, Ala.; Jacksonville/Mayport, Fla.; Washington; Savannah, Ga.; Biloxi/Gulfport, Miss.; Charleston/Berkeley County, S.C.; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Chicago; Denver; Jefferson County, Colo.; Baltimore; Memphis, Tenn.; and New York. Other contracts are pending in Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, Detroit and Boston. GSA plans to have contracts in all of the top 75 travel destinations by the end of 2002.

A newly formed Governmentwide Per Diem Advisory Board will review GSA's per diem rate setting process and make recommendations for changes by December 2002. GSA says it will review per diem rates and make any needed changes after those recommendations are released.