Budget blues force Air Force to cancel IT event

The Air Force has canceled its annual IT conference, which had been scheduled for late August in Montgomery, Ala., citing spending worries.

“Due to budgetary concerns, the Office of the Undersecretary of the United States Air Force has disapproved the 2012 Air Force Information Technology Conference (AFITC),” according to an an Air Force release.

“The principal driver for the cancellation is the travel cost for Air Force and government attendees, which is approximately $1.4 million. The Air Force is always focused on the proper stewardship of taxpayer funds. Currently, financial resources are heavily constrained, and this has increased the amount of scrutiny over Air Force sponsored and co-sponsored events,” the release stated.

That scrutiny echoes a government-wide trend of closely monitoring conference spending, including a recent memo from the Office of Management and Budget, which the Air Force release also referred to, pointing out its guidelines to encourage government agencies “to identify and implement creative and innovative practices to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in such areas such as travel and conferences.”

Conference spending has been a hot issue of debate since the General Service Administration’s scandal, which broke in April and revealed the agency had spent $822,000 on a Las Vegas conference for 300 GSA employees.

A number of bills have been drafted on Capitol Hill targeting conference spending. Among them are Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s (R-Tenn) Agency Conferences and Conventions Operating Under Necessary Transparency (ACCOUNT) Act, which would require approval for conference budgeted at more than $25,000. Another is from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who introduced the Accountability in Government Act, which would require a senior official, such as the chief management officer, to approve any conference costing more than $200,000.

According to the Air Force release, this isn’t the first time spending woes have resulted in canceled events. Although AFITC has been held annually since 1983, it was canceled in 1985, 1988, 1990, 1991 and 2005 for budgetary reasons.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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