President Obama's deficit commission announced today that it wants the federal government to slash its official travel budget as part of the effort to close the federal deficit.
Meanwhile, Obama is winging his way across Asia on a 12-day official trip that arrived earlier today in Seoul, South Korea. Apparently the president's commission failed to coordinate its announcement today with the president because here is recommendation six:
“Cut federal travel budget. – One of the first things companies cut when faced with budget problems is travel. Yet, despite record deficits, government expenditures for travel have grown by leaps and bounds. For example, in FY2001, 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 percent.
“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). Furthermore, 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 Department of Energy (DOE) announced this year that it will adopt the suggestion to reduce travel costs by increasing reliance on video teleconferencing when practical. To fund the upfront capital costs associated with this effort, DOE will plan to reduce travel budgets by 5 percent versus its 2009 travel expenditures. The savings from this reduction will be used to assist the Office of the Chief Information Officer in implementing a strategy of enhanced reliance on video telecommunications to bring down travel costs in 2011 and beyond.
“By increasing reliance on computer web cameras and other video teleconferencing equipment, including instant chatting, the Department will 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. DOE estimates this policy change will save $3 million in FY 2011.”
Applying DOE’s policy to all federal agencies (excluding the Postal Service) would save $4.22 billion over ten years.