President Obama’s axe-wielding Fiscal Commission has called on the US government to slash its travel budgets and move to more videoconferencing and other technologies such as instant messaging.
But the decision to release the heavyweight report on cost-cutting while the President is on a 12-day trip around Asia, including India and South Korea, may not have been the best PR decision, and has added to the fuel to the fiery battle between various sources over the cost of the trip after an Indian newspaper with an unnamed source suggested it was $200 million a day. But factchecker.org has rebutted the claim saying “there is no evidence to support it”.
The report from the Fiscal Commission is looking for $200bn of government savings overall, and puts the spotlight on growing travel spend.
It says: “One of the first things companies cut when faced with budget problems is travel. Yet, despite our record deficits, government expenditures for travel have grown by leaps and bounds. For example, in FY2001, federal agencies spent approximately $9 billion on travel for mission-related business around the world. In FY2006, that figure reached just over $14 billion—an increase of 56 per cent.
It adds: “The fact that travel spending is rising at such a rapid pace would seem to be counterintuitive, considering that the last decade has witnessed remarkable improvements in telecommunications technology (including video conferencing, web-casting, etc.) that should have decreased the need for in person face-to-face meetings and onsite visits.”
The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced this year that it would reduce travel costs by increasing reliance on video teleconferencing when practical.
To fund the upfront capital costs associated with this effort, DOE plans to reduce travel budgets by 5 per cent versus its 2009 travel expenditures. Applying DOE’s policy to all federal agencies would save $4.22 billion over ten years, says the report.
The DOE is planning to use more computer web cameras and other video teleconferencing equipment, including instant chatting, to reduce the need for some business travel.
“This will yield savings not only in terms of travel dollars, but also in travel time for federal workers and contractors, as well as positive externalities of increased safety from eliminating unnecessary travel and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”
The report looks for some explanation of growing travel spend outside an increase in journeys: “Some of the recent increases may be due to fluctuations in oil prices and the demands of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even so, the fact remains that year after year, agencies continue to spend more on travel than they project (both before and after 9/11).To receive our free weekly round-up of all news stories from our site, click here
Filed Under: News