Today, United States Congressman Tim Johnson released a Dear Colleague to his fellow Members of Congress regarding the Administration's attempt to reduce costs, especially in the area of travel.
On Wednesday afternoon, President Obama signed an Executive Order to cut waste within his administration. Promotional gear, cell phone service plans and travel expenses will be a few of the areas in which cuts will be made in an attempt to reduce spending by 20% in categories covered by the executive order.
Congressman Johnson responded to this news:
"I commend the Administration's attempt to reduce government waste in areas where funding is not absolutely necessary or can be done in a more efficient manner. Congress should attempt to make similar changes."
Increasing numbers of government officials and Members of Congress are traveling to foreign countries through their official capacity. Trips for Members of Congress, known as CODELS, are used to educate Members of Congress and to establish connections with foreign leaders. While these trips can serve an important function purpose to Members of the House of Representatives, Congressman Johnson has serious concerns regarding the antiquated and insufficient reporting requirements.
Under the Mutual Security Act of 1954, Members are only required to disclose the country they visited and how much they spent on "Per diem", "Transportation", and "Other purposes". These vague details do nothing to qualify the validity of the trip.
Congressman Johnson has introduced H.R. 638, the STAY PUT (Suspending Travel after Years of Pleasure Trips on Unwitting Taxpayers) Act, which aims to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately. If passed, H.R. 638 would place a six month moratorium on official foreign travel by Members of the House of Representatives to allow the General Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a comprehensive study on Congressional travel, including dollars spent since 1994 and the procedures necessary to engage in travel. This moratorium would not apply to travel to a military installation, theater of operations of the Armed Forces, or to Members on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Most importantly, GAO will offer its recommendations as to how the House can achieve more transparency and cost savings through foreign travel reform.
"The American people perceive the United States Government as wasting taxpayer dollars. By implementing a more transparent and fiscally responsible travel policy the House of Representatives can ensure efficient and necessary use of taxpayer dollars," said Congressman Johnson.
For additional information on H.R. 638 visit the following site: H.R. 639 Bill Summary