A five-page memo from the Office of Management and Budget released in late November should mean a growth spurt for government meetings. The new federal guidelines offer agencies more flexibility in approving travel expenses and conference activities, allow preapproval of recurring conferences and do not extend the funding caps that expired in September at the end of the 2016 fiscal year.
Jodi Collen, immediate past president of International Live Events Association, is thrilled with the news. “This is a great step in the right direction, as it acknowledges how important it is for people to get together for meetings,” says Collen. “What they are describing in the memo closely mimics what corporate America has been doing for the past six to eight years.”
For years, it’s been extremely difficult for federal employees to travel for in-person meetings at conferences and other industry events. After rampant overspending by federal employees— including an illustrious General Services Administration training conference in 2010 in Las Vegas—the Obama administration pushed to massively reduce the amount government employees could spend at conferences and travel with a 2012 memorandum about how the federal government needed to curb “wasteful spending” and “act as a careful steward of taxpayer dollars.”
Collen says the perception that prerecession conference spending may have been out of hand resulted in corporations and federal agencies shifting away from conferences and in-person meetings. Then they quickly realized they were hindering their own ability to be effective by drawing a hard line in the sand, she says, and understood the importance of being present in these conversations.