Board upholds reinstatement of GSA execs

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Originally posted on FederalTimes

The Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) upheld the reinstatement of two regional Public Buildings Service (PBS) commissioners fired in the wake of the extravagant 2010 Western Regions Conference, finding the General Services Administration did not provide adequate justification for letting them go.

Along with those directly involved in the planning process, former Region 8 Commissioner Paul Prouty and Region 7 Commissioner James Weller were fired after the acting PBS commissioner determined that they should have realized the conference costs were "questionable and excessive" and taken action. Continue reading

Auditors OK DoD Conference Policy

Originally posted on FederalTimes.comáby Nichole Blake Johnson

The Pentagon's conference spending policy generally aligns with government wide standards, and in some instances, exceeds them, a review has determined.

The Office of Management and Budget's 2012 policy is the benchmark.

DoD requires senior-level review and and pre-approval of all conference-related costs, while OMB requires senior-level review of conferences only when the estimated costs exceed $100,000, according to the Government Accountability Office report. DoD also aligns with OMB policy by publicly reporting annual conference costs. In addition, the department requires quarterly internal reporting of conference costs.

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Conference spending drops dramatically

Originally posted on Federaltimes.com by Andy Medici

Conference spending at four agencies fell 88 percent from fiscal 2010 to 2012, according to aáreportáreleased Jan. 3 by Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.

The Defense Department, Veterans Affairs Department, the General Services Administration and the IRS spent a combined $224 million on conferences in fiscal 2010 compared to $26 million in 2012, according to the report.

Mica, chairman of the subcommittee on Government Operations in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said increased congressional oversight of these agencies contributed to the drop in conference spending.

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Gutting travel, conference budgets invites problems

Originally posted on Federal Times

Federal travel and conference spending is predictably tanking under the combined pressures of severe budget cuts and the repercussions of a string of high-profile conference scandals that started in April 2012.

The scandals -- embarrassingly lavish conference events held by the General Services Administration, the Veterans Affairs Department and the IRS that were brought to light by inspectors general investigations -- provoked a quick and harsh response from Congess and the White House. Travel and conference activity across government slowed to a trickle within weeks.

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Budget cuts push conferences online

Originally posted Nicole Blake Johnson on Federal Times

Decreasing travel budgets are forcing agencies to conduct more meetings and training seminars online.

The Defense Department, for example, doubled the capacity of its Defense Connect Online system -- an internal collaboration tool -- this year to accommodate more simultaneous audio and video Web conferencing across the services. DCO's reach grew to 800,000 registered users in February, which DoD attributes to departmentwide travel and conference spending cuts.

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