On any given day, several thousand federal workers, from FBI agents to computer experts, are on the road, in the air or checking in and out of hotels and motels for Uncle Sam.
Many of the travelers complain that they lose money on the trips because the government doesn't allow them enough to eat, sleep and get around in cities and towns where they are assigned.
Uncle Sam has designated 199 geographic areas -- including cities such as New York, San Francisco and Washington -- as high-cost areas where employes can be reimbursed for up to $75 a day for meals and lodgings. In other areas the maximum daily expense rate is $50.
Terence Golden, the new head of the General Services Administration, has apparently sold the White House on a proposal to give GSA flexibility to deal with actual travel costs. He also plans to raise to 406 the number of cities in the high-cost network. Congress would have to approve the plan. If it does, agencies could pay the actual cost of lodging, plus a flat rate (varying city by city) for food.
House hearings on the legislation, introduced by Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), begin next week. If you are reading this in a motel, munching a cheese sandwich you packed at home, take heart. Help may be on the way.