More conferences fall victim to tight budgets

Originally posted by Eric Yoder on The Washington Post

Add two annual conferences on federal employee benefits to the list of meetings that have fallen victim to the current fiscal climate.

The Office of Personnel Management told agencies Wednesday that "based on the current budgetary situation facing Federal agencies," it is canceling its 2013 Benefits Conference, which last year was held in June, and its Fall Festival of Training, held last year in November. "Our survey of headquarters benefits officers indicated very few benefit officers will be able to attend this year," it said.

"We will work to develop alternative training opportunities such as webcasts during the rest of this year. While they will not be a complete, nor in some ways sufficient, substitute for the conference, they will allow us to continue providing training for benefits officers on critical issues," the message to agencies said.

The conferences are geared toward educating federal benefits officers about the details of employee benefits, improving their counseling skills and similar instruction.

The General Services Administration similarly recently canceled several conferences, also citing expected low attendance. Under guidance from the Office of Management Budget and internal policies, agencies are limiting spending on travel, training, conferences and similar expenses.

OPM said it plans to conduct a benefits training event in Pittsburgh next spring.

FOSE 2013 Announces Mobile Government Track

Leading Government Executives to Explore Topics Including BYOD and the Digital Government Strategy

Vienna, Va - FOSE 2013 will highlight the importance of today's mobile landscape within government with a track focused on mobile challenges and best practices.   Sessions will look at top strategies and policies including Bring You Own Device (BYOD), application programming interfaces (APIs) and mobilizing enterprise systems. FOSE 2013 will take place May 14-16 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

"With promises of decreased costs and increased efficiencies, as well as the release of the Digital Government Strategy last year, mobility is one of the most relevant topics today," said Mike Eason, Vice President, Public Sector Events, 1105 Media, Inc.  "But implementing the strategy comes with a learning curve.  The mobile government program features best practices and planning that helps attendees find approaches that best fit their agency's mission."

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GSA cuts last of its national conferences scheduled for this year

Originally posted by Josh Hicks on The Washington Post

The General Services Administration canceled the last of its national conferences scheduled for this year due to a lack of demand from agencies facing budget constraints, the administration announced Monday.

The GSA said it suspended its FedForum, which the agency had planned for July 16-18 in New Orleans, and its SmartPay training event, slated for Aug. 6-8 in Chicago.

Acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini.

The cancellations mark the second time in less than a month that the agency has called off major events due to a lack of demand. In February, the GSA suspended its annual expo and training conference.

"In the current fiscal climate, agencies and businesses alike have been forced to make tough spending cuts," the GSA said in a statement Monday. "After carefully reviewing the projected spending and attendance for this year's conferences, GSA will suspend both in an effort to use our resources more responsibly."

SmartPay is the federal government's charge-card program. Last year, more than 6,400 people attended the GSA's SmartPay training event in Las Vegas, but only 151 people had registered so far for this year's event in Chicago, according to the agency.

Instead of moving ahead with the Chicago conference, the GSA said it plans to offer a virtual SmartPay forum this fall.

FedForum is an annual GSA training event relating to acquisition, motor vehicles, aviation, transportation, boats, real property, personal property, and green buildings.

GSA said only 192 people had registered for this year's event, compared to 211 at around the same time last year.

GSA spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said the agency was still determining how much savings the cancellations would create for the federal government.

Last year, former GSA Administrator Martha N. Johnson resigned, and a host of other top agency officials were fired or placed on leave amid reports of lavish spending at a regional conference near Las Vegas.

(Image by Alex Wong -- Getty Images)

GSA Exec Dismissed During Spending Scandal Gets His Job Back

Originally posted by Kedar Pavgi on Government Executive

A Merit Systems Protection Board judge on Monday ruled that a General Services Administration executive was wrongfully dismissed after being caught up in a conference spending scandal, according to Federal News Radio.

MSPB Administrative Law Judge Patricia Miller reversed GSA's decision to remove Paul Prouty following allegations of misconduct and overspending at a training conference. Prouty, a 41-year veteran of GSA, was dismissed during the fallout from an $820,000, four-day conference in Las Vegas in 2010, and left the agency last August.  Until then, he had served as the agency's Public Buildings Service Region 8 commissioner.

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GSA ponders offering new contract to cut conference costs

Originally posted by Matthew Weigelt on FCW

Editor's note: This story was modified to correct the planned location of GSA Expo 2013, which GSA decided to cancel.

The General Services Administration may create a new Multiple Award Schedule program to aid agencies in managing meetings and conference events in light of budget constraints, administration memos and congressional legislative efforts to keep a close eye on spending.

GSA's idea--the Meetings Management Program (MMP)--would offer a disciplined, enterprise-wide approach to managing conferences and events, including the activities, processes, suppliers and data regarding the meetings. The program would aim to save money, mitigate risk and improve meetings overall. The scope of the services, or level of complexity an agency orders, would be based on each agency's own requirements.

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