Federal agencies have cut travel costs by $2 billion, according to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) testimony planned for a House hearing Wednesday.

Danny Werfel, OMB’s controller, will tell the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, U.S. Postal Service and the Census that the decrease from fiscal year 2010 to 2012 resulted from a drop in overall travel and  “ensuring that required travel is completed in a cost effective manner.”

The focus on government travel reached a peak last year when top leaders of the General Services Administration resigned or were fired following a report about excessive spending on a 2010 agency conference off the Las Vegas strip.

According to her advance testimony, Cynthia Metzler, GSA’s chief administrative services officer, says her agency “has put in place strict internal travel and conference policies to reduce costs, provide strong oversight, and ensure that travel only occurs when necessary.”

A  note of caution will be sounded by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.). “As we work to ensure oversight on travel expenditures, we also should work to preserve the many benefits of appropriate travel, which can promote collaboration and innovation,” Holt, a physicist, said in testimony submitted to the panel.

“As a scientist, I know firsthand how important scientific conferences and meetings are,” he added. “The informal conversations, as well as the formal presentations and poster sessions that go into a conference among scientists from different institutions, lead to new collaborations that have the promise of new discoveries. These are not fancy junkets.”


Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP