This is one in a regular series exploring how federal agencies are finding and implementing innovative ways to drive efficiency and cut costs.
With more than 50 offices and laboratories around the country and dozens of ancillary cleanup sites, the Environmental Protection Agency is a far-flung organization. But as proof that even an organization as spread out as the EPA can cut travel costs, the agency will be slicing its travel budget by more than one fourth in fiscal year 2013.
The cutback in travel dovetails with several events.
Several bills working their way through Congress would require extensive reporting of travel expenses and include restrictions on how many employees may travel, and to what destinations, along with a limit on conventions. The crackdown came in the wake of an IG report revealing $823,000 Las Vegas convention in 2010 and a 17-day Pacific trip led by former GSA administrator Jeff Neely.
As for the EPA, the agency has also been criticized for excessive spending. An EPA Inspector General’s report in May of last year chastising the agency for lack of control over its travel authorizations and spending.
The IG’s report called for EPA to get a handle on its travel. In response, EPA cut off “self –authorization” for travel and instituted procedures for travel justification that required multi-level authorization. The agency also, in a response to the IG’s office, said it was looking to hire a new travel service provider.
Meanwhile, there are also budget cutbacks to contend with.
President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget called for an EPA budget of $8.3 billion, $105 million below current levels and far below peak spending for the agency of $11 billion in 2010, Bloomberg News reported. House Republicans are considering legislation that would further reduce EPA spending.
The restrictions on travel are being implemented along with fiscal 2012′s focus on using government-owned space for meetings, finding co-sponsors to cut the cost of gatherings and making a “concerted effort to ensure that only essential travel is conducted, participation at conferences and meetings is appropriate, and that the number and frequency of face-to-face meetings and conferences hosted by EPA is limited to only the ones that are most essential,” a statement from the agency, in response to questions from Breaking Gov, said.
In testimony to Congress earlier this year about the EPA budget, administrator Lisa Jackson said the slimmed down spending ” focuses on fulfilling EPA’s core mission of protecting public health and the environment, while making the sacrifices and tough decisions that Americans across the country are making every day.”
Jackson said some of the cost savings are being found in a “responsible manner” like cutting back on travel, for example.