The Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget has adopted several best practices offered by ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership on its updated rules for federal employees attending conferences.

The new items have been added to the OMB guidance issued May 11, 2012, which established restrictions on conference attendance by federal employees. That 2012 memo caps spending on a single conference at $500,000 (without a waiver) and requires senior-level review of all spending for conferences over $100,000. It also says an agency must spend 30 percent less on conferences than it did in 2010.

At a Congressional hearing this past March on the impact of the OMB guidance, ASAE President and CEO John Graham urged lawmakers to consider the impact of face-to-face meetings. ASAE also worked with other associations to draft a protocol for conference planners to use in putting together meetings attended by federal employees. OMB adopted many of the protocol’s suggestions in its updated guidance in a memo sent to federal agencies in May.

One of the new best practices added to the guidance is that hotel costs for conferences should be within government per diem rates. Also, it states that federal conferences should not include “excessive or lavish social components.” Further, it calls upon agency planners to ask event organizers about “no frills” pricing options.

“The [Obama] Administration has taken aggressive steps to curtail conference spending and has installed strict policies and controls to ensure that conference expenditures are cost-effective and advance the mission and programmatic goals of each agency,” states the memo. “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.”Graham said ASAE is pleased to see the new OMB guidance stressing the value of face-to-face meetings. “ASAE and its members worked with OMB to suggest guidelines that would be beneficial for government employees, so they could attend association meetings for business purposes, for training, and to discover the latest trends occurring in the private sector,” said Graham. “This is a great example of associations and government working together to develop guidelines, so both sectors can benefit from face-to-face meetings.”    

Even though the guidance is directed to federal agencies, OMB and ASAE encourage association meeting professionals to consult the OMB guidance when planning conferences and events to increase the likelihood that federal employees can attend.