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House Bill Seeks to Increase U.S. Agencies’ Use of Videoconferencing

Reducing federal travel expenses the goal

A House Republican has introduced a bill that seeks to cut U.S. agencies’ travel expenses by having the White House Office of Management and Budget monitor the agencies to ensure federal employees are using videoconferencing for meetings rather than traveling to far locations.

Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, Pa., introduced the proposed Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act (H.R. 2643) which requires the director of the OMB to review how much the federal agencies have reduced travel expenses by the use of videoconferencing as directed by existing presidential and OMB orders and as required by federal law. In addition, the OMB director is to report those findings to Congress.

H.R. 2643 notes the advances in videoconferencing technology that have enabled a shift away from a hardware-based model to a browser-based model, and to systems that use off-the-shelf equipment present in most every government office, business and home. That has lead “to reduced expenses and increased efficiency,” the proposed legislation said.

The bill is “to provide for a review of efforts to reduce federal-agency travel expenses through the use of videoconferencing and a plan to achieve additional reductions in such expenses.” It cites Executive Order 13589, issued by President Barack Obama on Nov. 9, 2011, which directs the head of each executive department or agency to establish a plan for fiscal year 2013 to reduce the combined expenses associated with a variety of activities, including travel, by not less than 20 percent below fiscal year 2010 levels. “Executive Order 13589 addresses travel spending and provides, in part, for the use of video conferencing,” the bill said.

The bill also cites the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-292) which requires the head of each agency to establish a policy under which eligible employees of such agency might be authorized to telework, and a May 2012 OMB memo instructing the heads of the departments and agencies “to reduce their travel budgets in fiscal year 2013 to 30 percent below fiscal year 2010 levels.”

Under the bill, the director of OMB is not only to review the agencies’ use of videoconferencing, but to also develop a plan starting with federal fiscal year 2017 — which runs Oct. 1, 2016 – Sept. 30, 2017 — for videoconferencing to achieve either a 50 percent reduction in federal agency travel expenses below fiscal year 2013 levels, or the “greatest reduction” in such expenses the director considers to be feasible.

And, within six months of the bill being approved the OMB director is to report on the federal agencies’ reduction in expenses to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the document said.

The bill has been referred to both the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Appropriations. No hearing has been scheduled.

Click here to read the bill.