AHS Applauds New Federal Conference Guidelines

As a result of outreach by many US federal government science and technology agencies and by scores of professional technical societies — including AHS International — the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued an update to their overly harsh 2012 policy on conferences. The new document is dated Nov. 25, 2016 (Thanksgiving Friday):

OMB Memorandum M-17-08, “Amending OMB Memorandum M-12-12, Promoting Efficient Spending to Support Agency Operations,” signed by OMB Director Shaun Donovan, Nov. 25, 2016.

This new policy rescinds the prior OMB direction (M-12-12) that required pre-approval to attend conferences (initially interpreted to include technical conferences like the AHS Forum), and dictated incredibly wasteful reporting requirements. In addition, under M-17-08, the prior spending caps were not renewed. The restrictions that do remain in place are specifically stated to only be applicable to agency-sponsored/hosted “conferences”, like the one that got GSA into trouble in Las Vegas in the first place.

M-17-08 supports the less restrictive guidance that DOD, NASA and other US government agencies had recently implemented, and encourages the pendulum to swing back towards normalcy. In addition, there is language that speaks to the importance of S&T conferences to agency missions, delegation to an “appropriate official” for approvals, and a recommendation for pre-approval of known, recurring conferences.

AHS International strongly believes that collaboration is mission critical for the S&T community, and having government engineers and scientists barred from attending technical meetings has been a national injustice.

AHS International is an advocate for vertical flight and the global aerospace workforce. We have a proud legacy of pushing important initiatives for the advancement of vertical flight. One of the key advocacy activities over the past five years:

Lifting restrictions on US government employees: Current US government policies unfairly restrict the ability of government engineers and scientists to attend educational technical conferences. AHS has worked with other societies to inform government leaders of the negative impacts. The result was an OMB Controller Alert in May 2013 that clarified M-12-12 and highlighting the value of "collaborations in the scientific community."

AHS has worked with US government officials in the Legislative and Executive Branches, as well as other scientific organizations, and supported our advocacy work with several commentaries and articles in Vertiflite magazine (and published online):

  • News update, Jan. 14, 2016: US Government Employee Support. "The coalition [including AHS] was successful in altering legislation that otherwise would have made permanent the draconian restrictions prohibiting government employees from attending technical conferences."
  • News update, Sept. 28, 2015: AHS Applauds New DOD Policy on Conference Travel. "Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work began his cover memo: 'DoD participation in conferences and similar events is critical to our ability to share information and break down barriers that block innovation.'"
  • Vertiflite, May-Jun 2013: U.S. Government Actions: A False Economy in a High-Tech World. "The cost [to the government] of conference attendance is fairly low – a few thousand dollars, including travel expenses, and much more cost effective than individual trips to multiple industry and university sites – but the cost of ignorance during a new acquisition program is much higher – measured in billions."
  • Vertiflite, Nov-Dec 2012: The Value of Face-to-Face. "... the Wakefield Research Fourth Annual Business Travel Survey (2012) noted that 'Travelers estimated that 1 hour of face-to-face contact equaled 5 video conferences, 10 telephone calls, or 20 emails.' Often the unplanned discussions at meetings are much more valuable – for industry, academia and government – than the formal planned presentations."
  • Vertiflite, May-Jun 2012: Unintended Consequences. "The amendments [restricting U.S. government employee travel] as passed have significant unintended consequences that will be detrimental to AHS and the U.S. government."

Posted Nov. 30, 2016.