U.S. GOVERNMENT AGENCIES spent 15.7 percent less on conferences in 2017 than in the previous year, according to STR’s Market Insights team. The drop follows a steady increase in spending over the last five years after a precipitous drop in spending that came after reports of reckless spending by the agencies.
STR tracked only agency conferences that cost $100,000 or more of taxpayers’ money because the Office of Management and Budget’s Memorandum 12-12 requires that those conferences be reported. From Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017, the agencies spent $140 million in 2017, down from $166 million in 2016. The 2016 amount is an increase from $121 million in 2015, $107 million in 2014 and $100 million in 2013. However, the 2013 figure was steep drop from the $276 million spent in 2012.
“The last decrease in the industry came after reports of reckless spending by certain government departments in 2012,” said STR Senior Director of Market Insights Chris Klauda. “That year (2013), entire industry spending dropped by nearly two-thirds following Memorandum 12-12.”
However, Klauda also said that several agencies several agencies stopped reporting their conference spending recently, possibly due to the loosening of public expenditure reporting regulations that followed another memorandum. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and Department of the Interior did not file spending reports, so STR used a comparable set of agencies from previous years to draw historical comparisons.
STR’s study covered 507 conferences with approximately 108,000 total attendees. It also found that the conferences in 2017 averaged 218 attendees and $275,208 in spending. Washington, D.C., was the most popular location for federal meetings, followed by Orlando, Florida. The Department of Defense, Department of Veteran Affairs and Department of Health and Human Services incurred the most costs, as they have since 2012.