As part of our top to bottom review of GSA, we have been looking for savings in our government-wide travel programs. Each year, GSA sets the federal government’s travel reimbursement rates for lodging, meals, and incidentals for official government travel. For the first time in more than a decade, we decided to freeze the rates at current levels. This will help federal agencies save an estimated $20 million in avoided costs in Fiscal Year 2013. This is in line with President Obama’s Campaign to Cut Waste and the Administration’s directive to reduce travel spending by 30 percent.
While we considered a number of proposals to drive savings through the GSA per diem lodging rates, we needed more time to undertake a comprehensive review of the methodology used to determine those rates. We need better data to make sound decisions. Freezing the rates now was the most pragmatic approach that achieves significant savings while also allowing us more time to further evaluate the rates. The next step is for us to meet with experts through a Federal Advisory Committee and develop a plan for the rates moving forward.
Per diems are just one avenue through which GSA is reducing travel costs for agencies. Recently, we proposed to eliminate a policy that allows employees who attend a federal government sponsored conference to spend 25 percent above the per diem rate. Through this action, we will save approximately $9 million a year. We are also moving towards more cost-effective travel solutions, including launching the next generation of electronic travel service, beginning a pilot project for GSA’s online hotel booking program (FedRooms), and renegotiating contracts with airlines to offer discounted rates for federal employees.
GSA is also in the process of meeting with over a dozen agencies to identify areas where we can help drive savings government-wide, including in the area of travel.
Our work has just begun. GSA will continue to identify and launch new approaches to travel, fleet, contracting, IT and real property that will drive savings and improve government’s overall efficiency.