The GSA has had a bunch of scandals recently. But they really, really want you to know that they are trying to contain costs.
Fortunately, I translate their releases to make them more plain-spoken for the intelligent lay-person.
As part of our top to bottom review of GSA, we have been looking for savings in our government-wide travel programs. Each year, GSA sets the federal government’s travel reimbursement rates for lodging, meals, and incidentals for official government travel. For the first time in more than a decade, we decided to freeze the rates at current levels.
In other words, we were looking at ways of saving money on travel. But we decided not to move forward with any of them. Instead, we punted. (And since we’re doing such a great job in travel, you can trust that we’re just as good everywhere else, too, so could ya stop looking so hard at us?)
This will help federal agencies save an estimated $20 million in avoided costs in Fiscal Year 2013.
By not spending more, we spend less!
This is in line with President Obama’s Campaign to Cut Waste and the Administration’s directive to reduce travel spending by 30 percent.
Except that it isn’t, since the Administration directed a reduction in travel spendng by 30%. And GSA decided not to move forward with any cuts.
While we considered a number of proposals to drive savings through the GSA per diem lodging rates, we needed more time to undertake a comprehensive review of the methodology used to determine those rates. We need better data to make sound decisions. Freezing the rates now was the most pragmatic approach that achieves significant savings while also allowing us more time to further evaluate the rates. The next step is for us to meet with experts through a Federal Advisory Committee and develop a plan for the rates moving forward.
We wanted to reduce travel costs (really!) but the industry — through its lobbyists and through Members of Congress, let us know that was unacceptable. Now we’ve convened an Advisory Committee to formally bring those interests into the process.
Per diems are just one avenue through which GSA is reducing travel costs for agencies. Recently, we proposed to eliminate a policy that allows employees who attend a federal government sponsored conference to spend 25 percent above the per diem rate. Through this action, we will save approximately $9 million a year. We are also moving towards more cost-effective travel solutions, including launching the next generation of electronic travel service, beginning a pilot project for GSA’s online hotel booking program (FedRooms), and renegotiating contracts with airlines to offer discounted rates for federal employees.
We save money by ‘launching the next generation of electronic travel service’ instead of, you know, licensing things that exist. And we’re re-negotiating airline route contracts, like we do every year. By the very nature of the contracts.
GSA is also in the process of meeting with over a dozen agencies to identify areas where we can help drive savings government-wide, including in the area of travel.
The solution is more meetings!
Our work has just begun. GSA will continue to identify and launch new approaches to travel, fleet, contracting, IT and real property that will drive savings and improve government’s overall efficiency.
Somebody has to protect our phoney-baloney jobs!
Look, I’m not claiming to know the ‘right’ amount to spend for any given employee on any given trip, and if that’s the charge that an agency is given it’s really hard or impossible. But don’t take on a project to cut costs, decide not to move forward with it, and send out a release patting yourself on that back for a job well done…
For more on GSA’s decision not to cut spending as they had intended, see this discussion from last week.