Proposed Changes to Travel Regs May Impact All Federal Travelers

An advisory board has made recommendations to GSA on changes to the government’s current policies for government travelers.

On any given workday, approximately 93,000 Federal employees are on official travel. Uncle Sam spends approximately $2.5 billion a year in subsistence expenses it pays to employees traveling on behalf of the government.

As a result, the amount of money spent by employees on travel expenses is significant. Travelers working for the government must follow the travel and per diem rates established by the General Services Administation (GSA) for travel within the United States. These travelers include civilian government employees, Department of Defense (DoD) personnel, and people using invitational travel orders. These rates generally apply to cost reimbursable contractors as well.

If you travel on behalf of the government, you are probably familiar with the GSA’s travel and per diem policies and the amount of money you will be reimbursed. But, what you may not know, is that GSA has established a Governmentwide Per Diem Advisory Board to make recommendations on how these rates are established and what the rates will be. In other words, it has a major impact on how much money you will get when you travel for the government.

GSA has just made public a new report of the Per Diem Advisory Board. The Board has made recommendations in two broad areas:

• improvements to the per diem rate-setting process and methodology for meals, lodging, and incidental expenses within the United States;

• recommendations for a nationwide government lodging program that provides government travelers with properties appropriate to mission requirements, provides the government with the best price and value, and is commercially viable to the industry.

One major recommendation made by the board is that there should be one mandatory government-wide lodging program instead of competing programs that dilute the government’s purchasing power.

The board also recommends changes in the government’s per diem practice, in part because employees find it confusing and are not sure what is covered. It also recommends changes in the current policy of reimbursing travelers for their meals, in part because some travelers do not think they receive enough money for meals in some areas of the country.

While it is not certain that GSA will follow any or all of the board’s recommendations, it is likely that these recommendations will have a significant impact on the future of government travel regulations. You can download the complete report from the link on the left hand side of the page and see for yourself how travelers in your agency may be affected.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47