When the General Services Administration dropped $823,000 in 2010 to fly 300 federal workers to a lavish team-building conference in Las Vegas—complete with clowns, a mind-reader, an employee-produced rap video and after-hours parties in hotel suites—the Obama administration cracked down.
Agency travel budgets were slashed by 30%. No more out-of-town travel for government employees without high-level approval. No more lunches at all-day meetings. No coffee, even.
The restrictions have saved some $3 billion over four years, says the Office ofand Budget.
But now, the pendulum is swinging back. In January, the White House issued guidance giving agencies more flexibility to “reduce the burdens and streamline the process” for federal employees to attend conferences.
The problem: Travel bans have endangered the continuing education many employees need to maintain licenses and professional certifications. Government researchers have been unable to present at scientific conferences that promote technology transfer.
Even as the new travel guidelines take effect, federal executives have discovered an easier way to deal with restrictions: According to The Washington Post, no one sends their employees to “conferences” any more. They call it “training” instead.