New conference travel and event-spending restrictions at the Department of Energy could have a profound effect on the research booths your see and the number of DoE people you meet at SC12 this November. While conference officials are downplaying the overall impact of these changes, it will be extremely challenging for the National Labs and other DoE exhibitors to pull off their research exhibits under these guidelines.
- Departmental spending exceeding $100K on a single event requires Deputy Secretary approval.
- Overall DoE spending on a single conference is now limited to $500K. A waiver process is in place.
- No more than 15 individuals can travel to an event from a single department.
The new policies come in the wake of the GSA travel scandal that had lawmakers in an uproar this past Spring. As the federal government’s real estate and supply agency, the GSA was highly criticized for spending $823,000 on a Las Vegas conference in October 2010. Further probes revealed a history of excessive spending and misconduct.
So where does this leave SC12? While most our questions to conference organizers were summarily directed to DoE, Communications Co-Chair Ian MacConnell said that no conference decisions around this issue have been made yet.
While the SC12 Committee is investigating contingency plans based on some level of reduced DOE participation, we anticipate that this will have minimal impact on the conference as a whole and on the overall attendee experience.
As for the potential impact on SC12 attendance numbers, MacConnell pointed out that U.S. federal agencies (DoE, DoD, NOAA, NASA etc.) represent less than 10 percent of participation in SC as a whole. While that may be true, you can be sure that the vendors who pay the bills for the conference with their large exhibits will be watching closely as this story continues to unfold.