Limiting government travel and meetings won't save money after all

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News flash: A bill introduced this spring after the GSA debacle that was supposed to limit spending by cutting government travel and off-site meetings won't save money after all. Did I just hear a big old "duh"?

According to the article, a Congressional Budget Office review found that meeting the new requirements would actually create at least as much costs as would saves. The estimate explains, “The legislation would likely shift spending on travel to other categories, such as telecommunications and computer technologies,” thus resulting in a big old moot point at best.

While there is some of the usual dithering in the comments to the article, I loved this one in response to someone's suggestion that they do all government meetings by VTC (which stands for video teleconference, I'm guessing):

For 1 day meetings ok, but that is not what all travel is. And none of what we do at our command involved "resorts".

I go around the country conducting on the ground inspections which take 4 days not including travel. Can't do that by VTC

I also go to installations and teach a 4 day course that requires both a unclassified and classified computer room. I can't teach 40 students by VTC if I can't see the errors they are getting or reach over and show them what they are missing. While I am looking at developing computer-based training it will not fulfill all requirements and the initial development costs have been estimated at $300K. Not including the cost of future modifications as the database being trained changes constantly, at my current cost of $1,200 per monthly TDY, it will take 20 years to break even.

Then there is an annual planning / training conference that includes an exercise with representatives from 58 installations, 21 Major Commands, 3 JTFs and the other 3 services - about 100 personnel. That is a lot VTC rooms working 8 hours a day for 4 days. How do you encourage and control disccussion when you can't see 90% of the participants at any one time? These are forums for decisions and formulating policy.

And we do use VTCs whenever possible, but at least for the Army there are never enough rooms. It takes a lot of coordination to get a date that more than 3 locations have open. Then I schedule the room at my end and at the last minute one the outlying participants - usually the Pentagon - gets "bumped" and we start all over.

GSA made the entire government look terrible and there is no excuse for their actions, but don't crucify everyone else. Hold the right people accountable not make mass-punishment or knee-jerk inefficient policy.

My sentiments exactly. (Thanks to the MeCo listserv for the pointer.)

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