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by Matt Alderton | September 03, 2013

The federal government will no longer allow federal employees to spend more attending a conference than they do on a typical business trip, according to the General Services Administration (GSA).

“In FY 2014, the federal government will save an estimated $10 million by eliminating the Conference Lodging Allowance, which allowed federal travelers to spend 25 percent above per diem rates for conferences,” GSA Associate Administrator of Government-wide Policy Anne Rung reported in a blog post published last week.

Eliminating the Conference Lodging Allowance is the latest in a series of actions taken by the Obama Administration to reduce federal spending on meetings and travel. Last year, for instance, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) mandated that federal agencies cut their travel spending by 30 percent; year-to-date, they’ve cut it by 17 percent, it was reported last week.

“Federal employees routinely have to travel to serve the American people,” Rung continued. “As each agency reviews its travel and conference-related activities, each agency must ensure that any spending serves the American people as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Despite ongoing cuts, GSA also had good news for the travel industry last week: Per diem rates — the maximum daily allowance given to government employees for lodging, meals and incidental expenses when they’re traveling on business — have been announced for FY 2014, and most rates have risen.

Per diem rates, which are calculated using lodging industry metrics, including average daily rate (ADR), were frozen last year at 2012 levels. This year, however, the standard per diem rate — an aggregate of rates in “standard” locations across the country, calculated once every three years and applicable in 2,600 U.S. counties — is $129 ($83 for lodging and $46 for meals and incidentals), up 4.8 percent from $123 previously ($77 for lodging and $46 for meals and incidentals).

Several nonstandard per diem rates — rates that vary by destination and season, which are reviewed annually — also have been increased. New York’s, Chicago’s and San Francisco’s autumn per diems, for instance, were raised from $295, $190 and $184, respectively, to $303, $209 and $226.

“The FY 2014 per diem rates released today by GSA are welcome news for government travelers who stay in hotels while traveling on government business,” Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), said in a statement. “These rates, which are calculated to reflect actual market room rates, are a key component of an efficient federal travel policy. The methodology used to establish the rates released today ensure that federal travelers will be able to find hotel rooms at a good value to the federal government.”


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