Reporting on Conference Expenses

The information on this page complies with the reporting requirements in OMB Memorandum M-12-12 to provide a description of agency-sponsored conferences from the previous fiscal year where the net expenses for the Department of State associated with the conference were in excess of $100,000.

About Department of State Conferences

Conferences and meetings sponsored by the Department of State support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States. While conferences vary in their topics, they fall broadly into three categories: regional conferences/workshops for employees within particular job categories; conferences/workshops on current foreign policy topics and opportunities; and conferences designed to bring together Department of State offices with non-governmental organization partners. Typical conference activities include: explaining changes in Department strategy such as the roll-out of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review; providing training on new management processes and requirements; and conducting hands-on workshops to prepare embassy budgets that support the operations of the Department and other agencies conducting foreign policy.

The Department concurs with the need for strong oversight of conference spending. The Department has a long standing commitment to financial stewardship and containing conference costs. Since July 2004, the Department of State has had a formal approval policy on conference participation. This policy, with some exceptions, required Under Secretary for Management approval to host or attend a conference, workshop, or other meeting requiring the travel of 25 or more Department participants. Per the guidance detailed in OMB Memorandum 12-12, the policy was modified on May 30, 2012 to also include all conference participation with expenses in excess of $100,000. The Department also implemented a policy requiring more senior level approval for Department sponsored conferences with expenses in excess of $500,000.

Across conference types, the Department’s on-going emphasis on managing conference budgets resulted in several cost-saving approaches including:

  • Changing certain annual conferences to biennial conferences,
  • Reducing the number of participants at international conferences
  • Limiting the number of DC-based participants at overseas conferences
  • Holding conferences adjacent to other conferences to save airfare costs
  • Encouraging the expanded use of digital teleconferences
  • Holding a majority of conferences in Department of State facilities including the Harry S Truman building (DC), the Foreign Service Institute (VA) and the Frankfurt Regional Center (Germany)
  • Holding regional conferences in lower cost cities after comparing costs with other locations

These examples illustrate the Department’s ongoing commitment to containing costs while implementing U.S. foreign policy. The Department will continue to balance financial stewardship with mission imperatives by seeking new opportunities for strong controls and cost efficiencies.