The U.S. Department of Defense has suspended attendance for Army personnel at non-Department of Defense conferences through the end of 2012. It has also become the latest government agency to adopt a new policy on conference spending.

In a memo dated October 17, Secretary of the Army John McHugh stated that only those who have received previous approval may attend outside conferences through the end of the year. Exceptions may be granted, though McHugh’s memo made clear that exceptions would not be easy to come by.

“We must continue to implement more cost-effective and efficient methods to train, plan, collaborate and disseminate information,” he wrote in the memo. “Experience has shown that conferences are an expensive means of accomplishing these goals, and the need for each conference must be indisputable in the current environment of declining resources.”

However, Army-hosted conferences between now and December 31 that were previously approved by an appropriate authority may proceed as scheduled.

Effective January 1, 2013, the DOD will adopt a policy similar to the one established by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs earlier this year. The new DOD policy states that no Army-hosted conferences can exceed $500,000 in costs without a waiver from the Secretary of the Army or Undersecretary of the Army. Co-sponsored Army conferences of any cost must also receive approval from these same authorities.

For conferences that cost between $100,000 and $500,000, approval authority is with commanders of the various Army Commands hosting conferences. Conferences under $100,000 must be approved by either commanders of Army Commands, Army Service Component Commands and Direct Reporting Units, or Principal Officials.

Attendance by Army personnel at non-DOD conferences must be approved by the Secretary of the Army or the Undersecretary of the Army if total costs exceed $20,000.

The directives are continuing fallout from the General Services Administration Western Regions Conference scandal. The $822,00 2010 GSA conference was flagged by the Inspector General for excessive spending and contracting abuses and led to Congressional hearings, White House guidelines, canceled meetings, and the new conference spending policies.