House Passes DATA Act, Adds More Restrictions to Government Travel

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act on Monday in a 388-1 vote. The so-called DATA Act, which aims to increase transparency in how government agencies receive and spend funds, has drawn industry attention for the restrictions it will place on government travel and meetings. "The DATA Act is an outdated solution to an even more outdated problem," said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow in a statement. "Lawmakers are seeking publicity for tacking a number of well-publicized incidents from several years ago in which government travel budgets were unquestionably abused by a few irresponsible parties, but those issues were already addressed by new accountability protocols at the administrative level. And if the goal is to save money, sequestration has already drastically reduced travel budgets until 2021 -- there's nothing left to cut." The act calls for conference-spending budgets to be slashed significantly, and for a $500,000 cap to be placed on any single conference. "Of course there should be oversight and transparency," continued Dow, "but this bill augments neither -- it's a slash-and-burn approach undertaken in the complete absence of cost-benefit considerations of the kind that private businesses use and taxpayers deserve."

Michael W. McCormick, executive director and COO of the Global Business Travel Association, weighed in as well, adding that the act will "threaten key agencies' ability to operate effectively and ultimately will result in lost jobs. Use of professional travel management principles can avoid the embarrassing, expensive and indefensible costs and stories like GSA's Las Vegas scandal. Congress should mandate that the federal government uniformly follow everyday practices adopted at thousands of U.S. companies -- optimizing the use of travel dollars by effectively implementing policies that drive appropriate traveler behavior."