OMB Issues New Guidance On Conferences

PPAI’s work in Washington, D.C., in March yielded a big victory for association meetings and conferences last week. In a memo sent to agencies’ chief financial officers, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) acknowledged the need for federal employees to attend mission-related conferences and provided some best practices for approving travel and conference expenses.

While the memo said that sequestration budget cuts will likely result in reduced government participation in conferences and travel, OMB stressed that federal agencies should not interpret any recent Administration guidance as a moratorium on travel or conference attendance.

“As each agency reviews its travel and conference-related activities, it is critical for each agency to continue to recognize the important role that mission-related travel and conferences can often play in government operations,” said the OMB memo. “Given the unique travel and conference needs of each agency, there are circumstances in which physical collocation is necessary to complete the mission.”

PPAI’s Manager of Government Relations Seth Barnett participated in the American Society of Association Executives fly-in in March in Washington, D.C., to advocate on the issues of the association industry.

“The hot topic during my time in D.C. was the possibility of a bill that would cut spending for federal employees attending conferences and meetings,” says Barnett. “This would be a tremendous blow to the association industry and those that host these conferences. I met with staff members for Senator Ted Cruz and Senator John Cornyn as well as Senator Carl Levin’s staff about the importance of this topic and how crucial it is for federal employees to continue to have the availability to seek education through meetings and conferences.”

The OMB adopted many of the suggested best practices, such as hotel costs that are within government per diem rates and ensuring that social events held in conjunction with a conference aren’t lavish or excessive.

“It is great to hear about ASAE’s work with the Office of Management and Budget to ensure these programs stay intact,” he says. “The new federal guidance is a victory for the association world.”

In addition to the guidelines for acceptable travel and conference expenses, the OMB memo requires that agencies report the costs and contracting procedures for any government conference exceeding $100,000 to their agency’s Inspector General’s office. Find more information about the guidelines here.

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