Agency spending on travel to conferences is “vital to making government more efficient and effective,” says a study released this month by the U.S. Travel Association. It argues that current Obama administration guidelines and legislation to curb conference spending is counterproductive.
Government travel for meetings and events had a total economic impact of $24.4 billion in 2011, supported 343,800 U.S. jobs and $14.5 billion in U.S. wages, and contributed $5.5 billion in tax revenue, according to the data compiled by Rockport Analytics LLC.
The report put a number on the economic effect of canceling the 2013 Military Health System Conference, an annual training event for several thousand military medical personnel. Replacement expenses and lost revenue, it said, cost the government more than $800,000.
As a result of NASA’s decision to pull out of the April 2013 National Space Symposium, a gathering for representatives of 30 nations, "important international partnerships are jeopardized, important international programs are placed at risk, and the U.S. government places serious strain on relationships with countries around the world,” according to Elliot Pulham, CEO of the private National Space Foundation.
The study also found that government meetings are more efficient than private-sector meetings in terms of expenses, and that private-sector conferences are more productive when government employees participate. A survey found that 89 percent of government supervisors believe that government meetings and events benefit citizens, and 85 percent of government respondents agreed that meetings and events added value to employee development and training.
"We hope these new findings will encourage congressional leaders to reevaluate proposals to drastically cut government travel budgets across the country," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the travel association. "When conducted responsibly, federal workers who travel for conferences and meetings deliver important services and real value to our nation."