DoD Conference Policies and Controls

DoD has always taken its duty to be an excellent steward of taxpayer dollars very seriously. Through the continued implementation of the Secretary of Defense's Efficiencies Initiative and President Obama's Campaign to Cut Waste, the department has focused on reducing costs and ensuring policies and controls are in place to prevent waste, duplication, or abuse, with specific attention paid to spending associated with conferences.

Through the implementation of the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) May 11, 2012 memorandum, "Promoting Efficient Spending to Support Agency Operations," DoD has further increased scrutiny of conference spending and elevated approval authority for conference hosting and attendance. Implementation guidance was provided by the Deputy Secretary of Defense on September 29, 2012 and reissued by the Deputy Chief Management Officer on November 6, 2013 to reflect lessons learned over the past year and additional best practices. This guidance has helped the department make important progress in centralizing its oversight of conference spending within each of the DoD Components and significantly reduce conference spending. Reductions and further cost-savings are continuing during fiscal year 2014.

DoD Approach

Aggressive cost saving measures have included canceling conferences, combining previously separate conferences to reduce the need for travel, reducing the number of DoD attendees at certain conferences, eliminating non-mission critical events at conferences, and modifying certain contracts to ensure best value to the government, among others. For example:

  • Attendance by DoD personnel at the 2012 Worldwide Education Symposium was reduced by approximately 50% from the last time the conference was held and the associated contract was modified to eliminate non-mission critical events.
  • The 2012 Military Health Research Symposium combined three service specific conferences into a single event with an estimated cost-savings of more than $300K.
  • The Army has canceled and re-scoped dozens of conferences to eliminate unnecessary events, resulting in savings of millions of dollars.
  • The Air Force canceled the Air Force Information Technology Conference saving approximately $1.7 M.
  • The National Guard Bureau and the State of Missouri consolidated six different events into a one week long conference, significantly reducing travel for core HQ personnel and eliminating the potential for redundant travel. Combining these events resulted in a savings of nearly $800K in FY12.

In addition, the Deputy Secretary of Defense authorized DoD components in January 2013 to further curtail spending on travel, training, and conferences, in light of the overall budget uncertainty faced by the Department. This is one of the various actions the DoD components are currently taking to help mitigate budget execution risks as the Department operates under a continuing resolution and as the possibility of sequestration remains.

Conferences can and do serve many important purposes. For example, conferences often serve as training, professional development and continuing education opportunities allowing employees to become better and more effective at their jobs as well as achieve and maintain professional accreditations. In many cases, conferences prove to be extremely cost effective ways to deliver these types of training opportunities to large numbers of people. Conferences also prove to be extremely effective venues for collaboration between the Department and industry and/or foreign nationals – strengthening our ability to effectively execute our mission.

As we continue to implement OMB's guidance, we will do so in a responsible way that guarantees the best use of taxpayer funds while also ensuring that we retain the benefits of conferences that enable our mission through the appropriate development of our workforce, and the exchange of important information and best practices with industry. We are also focused on utilizing other options to conferences such as video-conferencing and more fully implementing "local-first" and "government facility-first" policies.

DoD Annual Reports

To access DoD's annual conference reports, click here.