J. Scott Applewhite/AP

OMB instructs agencies to further cut travel and conferences

Jeffrey Zients' memo also demands improvements in vehicle fleet and real estate management.

Acting Budget Director Jeffrey Zients on Friday instructed all agency heads to step up efforts to economize through more selective employee travel and conference planning, as well as through improved management of vehicle fleets and disposal of unneeded federal properties.

In a memo, Zients directed agencies to build on cost-containment strategies in the works since President Obama’s Nov. 9, 2011, executive order on efficient spending. Zients noted the president’s 2013 budget identifies $8 billion in reduced costs as a result of that order.

“From his first days in office, President Obama has led a concerted and aggressive effort to streamline government and cut wasteful and inefficient spending wherever it exists so that we can focus our resources on serving the American people,” Zients wrote in an accompanying blog post. “From slowing the uncontrolled growth of federal contracting to getting rid of excess real estate held by agencies and reining in spending on federal employee travel, this administration has already cut billions in inefficient spending across the federal government.”

He added, “these efforts and others have already produced more than $280 million in reduced costs in the first quarter of fiscal 2012 compared to the same period in fiscal 2010.” In the area of travel, every agency is to spend at least 30 percent less in fiscal 2013 and maintain that level through 2016.

On conferences, the memo requires deputy secretaries to review any such event if it could cost an agency more than $100,000. It requires department secretaries to personally sign a waiver for conferences costing more than $500,000. It also requires agencies to post publicly each January on the prior year’s conference spending, including descriptions of agency conferences that cost more than $100,000.

On fleets, agencies will use existing General Services Administration fleet services, or initiate a replacement and renewal schedule that is consistent with requirements spelled out in a May 2011 presidential memorandum and the Federal Management Regulation.

On property ownership, agencies are barred, as of Friday, from increasing the size of their civilian real estate inventory, except under specified conditions.