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Senate Panel Approves Restrictions on Federal Travel

August 1, 2014—The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee July 30 passed legislation to codify existing regulations restricting the number of federal employees who can attend international conferences and limiting spending by any one federal agency for a single conference.

The committee approved by voice vote a bipartisan substitute amendment to the Conference Accountability Act of 2013 (S. 1347) offered by Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who sponsored the original bill, Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John McCain (R. Ariz.), and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

The amended bill also requires congressional pre-notification for waivers of these limits and creates additional reporting requirements for conference spending over $50,000.

The AAMC joined 69 other scientific and engineering societies in a July 29 letter  to the committee expressing “concerns about current and proposed restrictions on the ability of federal and contractor scientists and engineers to participate in scientific and technical conferences.”

The letter notes the amended bill “would raise existing barriers and perpetuate unintended negative consequences the administration’s regulations have already imposed on our scientific enterprise and national competitiveness.

“Scientific and technical conferences help maintain a ‘talented and interconnected workforce,’” the letter states, adding “These conferences promote collaborations between federal scientists and those in private industry and academia, provide for rapid dissemination of federally funded research results, and provide high quality professional development for the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

The letter also asserts, “Since the implementation of restrictive travel policies in OMB Memorandum M-12-12, conference participation by scientists and engineers who are also federal employees has dropped precipitously. This — in conjunction with the ongoing sequestration cuts to federal research investments — has led to canceled conferences and fewer speaking invitations for government scientists, slowing scientific progress and diminishing the stature of U.S. science agencies at home and abroad.”


Tannaz Rasouli
Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
Telephone: 202-828-0525


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Jason Kleinman
Senior Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806