New Regulations Ease Some Government Meetings Processes

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But will new rules survive the transition?

A new memorandum from the White House Office of Management and Budget, M-17-18, aims to help federal agencies achieve a balance between cost-cutting efforts and not undercutting or preventing agencies from achieving their missions.

The new memo affirms that "Conferences play an important role in the federal government, whether by enabling the sharing of knowledge among large groups, bringing together dispersed communities or providing opportunities for interaction, collaboration and presenting cutting-edge work."

A directive in the memo states that each agency can designate an official to approve spending in excess of $500,000 on a single conference that an agency is hosting or co-hosting; previously, only the head of the agency was able to approve costs, tying up the planning process.

"It's a very positive memo, and our members appreciate the perceived latitude allowing agencies to choose their appropriate senior official," said Rob Coffman, CGMP, branch chief for strategic meetings management for the Department of the Treasury and immediate past president of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals' national board. He also noted that the memo references private-sector conferences that federal employees attend, allowing travel to scientific conferences and the like to be pre-approved in a timely manner.

Insiders say that while the incoming administration could rescind all executive orders made over the past eight years, the directives concerning events and travel are cost-effective and might not be overturned.