Dr. Coburn Says Federal Agencies Spend Too Much on Travel, Meetings
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security, said today federal agencies spend too much money for meetings and travel.
"During a time of war, there's no excuse for the excessive amounts of money agencies spend to attend conferences in exotic locations," Dr. Coburn said. "Our nation has a long history of service and sacrifice. During previous times of war, presidents and lawmakers saw fit to cut back non-defense spending. It's time Congress make tough decisions about spending so we can keep our commitments and strengthen our financial picture."
At a hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security, it was revealed that travel spending at federal agencies has increased at an astounding rate in recent years. Since 2000, the federal government has spent more than $1.4 billion to underwrite conferences or send federal employees to attend them - oftentimes in lavish locales. For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development sent delegates to the resort town of Los Cabos, Mexico, while the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spent $3.6 million on a single conference in Barcelona, Spain, to which they sent 236 employees to attend.
"Government agencies must overcome their spring break' mentality when it comes to travel and work toward utilizing taxpayer dollars more efficiently," Dr. Coburn said. "With the advancement of Internet communication and video and teleconferencing, we can share the same information at a fraction of the cost."
At Tuesday's hearing, Dr. Coburn suggested every federal agency should make available online their meeting and travel expenses.
"Every conference should be readily defensible, on its face, to the American people in terms of topic, location and participants," Dr. Coburn said. "It is time to scale back, make some tough decisions and set priorities."