H. Rept. 112-664 - 112th Congress (2011-2012)
September 11, 2012, As Reported by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee

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House Report 112-664 - GOVERNMENT SPENDING ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2012




[House Report 112-664]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]


112th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                     112-664

======================================================================



 
             GOVERNMENT SPENDING ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2012

                                _______
                                

 September 11, 2012.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on 
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

   Mr. Issa, from the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 4631]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to whom 
was referred the bill (H.R. 4631) to require quarterly reports 
on agency conferences and meetings, and for other purposes, 
having considered the same, report favorably thereon with an 
amendment and recommend that the bill as amended do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Committee Statement and Views....................................     3
Section-by-Section...............................................     5
Explanation of Amendments........................................     6
Committee Consideration..........................................     6
Application of Law to the Legislative Branch.....................     6
Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the 
  Committee......................................................     6
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............     7
Federal Advisory Committee Act...................................     7
Unfunded Mandate Statement.......................................     7
Earmark Identification...........................................     7
Committee Estimate...............................................     7
Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate...     7
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill as Reported.............     8

    The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

  This Act may be cited as the ``Government Spending Accountability Act 
of 2012'' or the ``GSA Act of 2012''.

SEC. 2. LIMITS AND TRANSPARENCY FOR TRAVEL AND CONFERENCE SPENDING.

  (a) Amendment.--Chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code, is amended 
by inserting after section 5711 the following:

``Sec. 5712. Limits and transparency for travel and conference spending

  ``(a) Definitions.--In this section:
          ``(1) Conference.--The term `conference' means a meeting, 
        retreat, seminar, symposium, or event to which an employee 
        travels 25 miles or more to attend, that--
                  ``(A) is held for consultation, education, 
                discussion, or training; and
                  ``(B) is not held entirely at a Government facility.
          ``(2) International conference.--The term `international 
        conference' means a conference occurring outside the United 
        States attended by representatives of--
                  ``(A) the Government of the United States; and
                  ``(B) any foreign government, international 
                organization, or foreign nongovernmental organization.
  ``(b) International Conference Rule.--An agency may not pay the 
travel expenses for more than 50 employees of that agency who are 
stationed in the United States, for any international conference, 
unless the Secretary of State determines that attendance for such 
employees is in the national interest.
  ``(c) Report on Travel Expenses Required.--At the beginning of each 
quarter of each fiscal year, each agency shall post on the public 
website of that agency a report on each conference for which the agency 
paid travel expenses during the preceding 3 months that includes--
          ``(1) the itemized expenses paid by the agency, including 
        travel expenses, and any agency expenditures to otherwise 
        support the conference;
          ``(2) the primary sponsor of the conference;
          ``(3) the location of the conference;
          ``(4) in the case of a conference for which that agency was 
        the primary sponsor, a statement that--
                  ``(A) describes the cost to the agency of selecting 
                the specific conference venue;
                  ``(B) describes why the location was selected, 
                including a justification for such selection;
                  ``(C) demonstrates the cost efficiency of the 
                location;
                  ``(D) provides a cost benefit analysis of holding a 
                conference rather than conducting a teleconference; and
                  ``(E) describes any financial support or other 
                assistance from a private entity used to pay or defray 
                the costs of the conference, and for each case where 
                such support or assistance was used, the head of the 
                agency shall include a certification that there is no 
                conflict of interest resulting from such support or 
                assistance;
          ``(5) the date of the conference;
          ``(6) a brief explanation of how the participation of 
        employees from such agency at the conference advanced the 
        mission of the agency;
          ``(7) the title of any employee, or any individual who is not 
        a Federal employee, whose travel expenses or other conference 
        expenses were paid by the agency; and
          ``(8) the total number of individuals whose travel expenses 
        or other conference expenses were paid by the agency.
  ``(d) Format and Publication of Report.--Each report posted on the 
public website under subsection (c) shall--
          ``(1) be in a searchable electronic format; and
          ``(2) remain on that website for at least 5 years after the 
        date of posting.''.
  (b) Technical and Conforming Amendment.--The table of sections for 
chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code, is amended by inserting 
after the item relating to section 5711 the following:

``5712. Limits and transparency for travel and conference spending.''.

  (c) Annual Travel Expense Limits.--
          (1) In general.--In the case of each of fiscal years 2013 
        through 2017, an agency (as defined under section 5701 of title 
        5, United States Code) may not make, or obligate to make, 
        expenditures for travel expenses, in an aggregate amount 
        greater than 70 percent of the aggregate amount of such 
        expenses for fiscal year 2010.
          (2) Identification of travel expenses.--
                  (A) Responsibilities.--Not later than December 31, 
                2012, and after consultation with the Administrator of 
                General Services and the Director of the Administrative 
                Office of the United States Courts, the Director of the 
                Office of Management and Budget shall establish 
                guidelines for the determination of what expenses 
                constitute travel expenses for purposes of this 
                subsection. The guidelines shall identify specific 
                expenses, and classes of expenses, that are to be 
                treated as travel expenses.
                  (B) Exemption for military travel.--The guidelines 
                required under subparagraph (A) shall exclude military 
                travel expenses in determining what expenses constitute 
                travel expenses. Military travel expenses shall include 
                travel expenses involving military combat, the training 
                or deployment of uniformed military personnel, and such 
                other travel expenses as determined by the Director of 
                the Office of Management and Budget, in consultation 
                with the Administrator of General Services and the 
                Director of the Administrative Office of the United 
                States Courts.
  (d) Conference Transparency and Spending Limits.--
          (1) Definitions.--In this subsection:
                  (A) Agency.--The term ``agency'' has the meaning 
                given that term under section 5701 of title 5, United 
                States Code.
                  (B) Conference.--The term ``conference'' has the 
                meaning given that term under section 5712(a) of that 
                title 5, United States Code (as added by subsection 
                (a)).
          (2) Public availability of conference materials.--Each agency 
        shall post on the public website of that agency detailed 
        information on any presentation made by any employee of that 
        agency at a conference (except to the extent the head of an 
        agency excludes such information for reasons of national 
        security) including--
                  (A) the prepared text of any verbal presentation 
                made; and
                  (B) any visual, digital, video, or audio materials 
                presented, including photographs, slides, and audio-
                visual recordings.
          (3) Limits on amount expended on a conference.--
                  (A) In general.--An agency may not expend more than 
                $500,000 to support a single conference.
                  (B) Rule of construction.--Nothing in this paragraph 
                shall be construed to preclude an agency from receiving 
                financial support or other assistance from a private 
                entity to pay or defray the costs of a conference the 
                total cost of which exceeds $500,000.

                     Committee Statement and Views


                          PURPOSE AND SUMMARY

    Spending on civilian (non-military) travel by the Federal 
Government increased 88-percent from 2001 to 2011, despite 
dramatic improvements in teleconferencing technology. 
Relatively little is known concerning the necessity and cost-
effectiveness of the billions of dollars spent annually in this 
area.
    As amended during full committee consideration by an 
Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute (ANS), H.R. 4631 is 
intended to reduce non-mission critical travel spending by 
limiting annual travel spending by each federal agency, and 
requiring greater transparency of travel and conference-related 
expenditures.
    The ANS requires each federal agency to limit non-military 
travel spending for each of fiscal years 2013 to 2017 to 70-
percent of the amount it spent on such travel in FY 2010. And 
it prohibits an agency from spending more than one-half million 
dollars on any one conference. An agency may not pay the travel 
expenses of more than 50 of its employees to attend an 
international conference, unless the Secretary of State 
determines that doing so is in the national interest.
    With respect to transparency, the ANS requires that each 
agency post quarterly on its website a report on each 
conference for which the agency paid travel expenses during the 
previous quarter. The reports are to contain detailed 
information regarding the conference expenditures, and--in the 
case of a conference primarily sponsored by the agency--an 
explanation of why the locale was chosen, how the conference 
furthered the agency's mission, and a cost benefit analysis of 
why the agency held a conference instead of a teleconference.
    The section-by-section portion of this report more fully 
summarizes the contents of the ANS.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    On April 2, 2012, Administrator of General Services Martha 
Johnson fired two top deputies at the General Services 
Administration (GSA) and then immediately resigned. The reason 
given for the dismissals and the resignation was the impending 
release of a report by the GSA Office of Inspector General on 
the On April 16, 2012, the House Oversight and Government 
Reform Committee held a hearing titled ``Addressing the GSA's 
Culture of Wasteful Spending''. The hearing explored 
mismanagement and abuse of taxpayer dollars at the Western 
Regions 2010 Conference held by the GSA Public Building Service 
in October 2010.
    GSA has a major policy-making role in regulating 
Government-wide travel. GSA responsibilities include the 
setting of per diem rates for travel with the United Sates, the 
promulgation of the Federal Travel Regulation, and the 
management of the federal vehicle fleet.
    During the course of its federal travel oversight 
activities, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee 
found that federal agencies do not effectively track travel and 
conference spending, and make little or no effort to make the 
information they do track readily available to the American 
people. Despite the billions of dollars spent each year on 
federal civilian travel, it is not clear how much of this money 
is well spent, and how much is wasted.
    According to the White House Office of Management and 
Budget, non-military travel spending grew 88-percent from 
fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2011. The December 2010 report 
of The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform 
(``Simpson-Bowles Commission'') recommends cutting federal 
travel spending. It states, ``Despite advances in technology, 
federal travel costs have ballooned in recent years, growing 
56-percent between 2001 and 2006 alone. . . . We propose 
prohibiting each agency from spending more than 80 percent of 
its FY 2010 travel budget and requiring them to do more through 
teleconferencing and telecommuting.''

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    On April 25, 2012, the Senate adopted S. 1789, the 21st 
Century Postal Reform Act by a vote of 62-37. During floor 
consideration of S. 1789, the Senate adopted by voice vote an 
amendment offered by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma that 
limited overall federal travel spending, curbed travel for 
international conferences, and set additional transparency 
measures for domestic and international conference spending. 
The amendment was incorporated as Title V of the bill, as 
adopted by the Senate.
    Later the same day, the House of Representatives adopted by 
voice vote under suspension of the rules H.R. 2146, the Digital 
Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), as amended. 
Section 308 of the amended version of DATA contains federal 
travel and conference spending language largely paralleling the 
language of the Coburn amendment to S. 1789. The DATA Act as 
passed by the House also institutes new transparency 
requirements across the Government applicable to all federal 
spending data.
    Also on April 25, 2012, Representative Joe Walsh of 
Illinois introduced H.R. 4631, the Government Spending 
Accountability Act of 2012, or GSA Act. The bill was referred 
to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. As 
introduced, the GSA Act required the head of each federal 
agency to submit to Congress, not less frequently than 
quarterly, a detailed, itemized report on any conference or 
meeting for which the agency must pay a fee and that: (1) is 
attended by 50 or more employees, or (2) has a total cost of 
$100,000 or more. It exempts any conference or meeting: (1) for 
which an agency head determines complying with such reporting 
requirement would not be in the interest of national security, 
or (2) which an agency head determines is necessary because of 
an imminent threat to health or safety or other emergency.

                           Section-by-Section

    Section 1. Short title. The Act may be cited as 
``Government Spending Accountability Act of 2012'' or ``GSA Act 
of 2012.''
    Section 2. Limits and Transparency for Travel and 
Conference Spending.
    (a) A new section 5712 is added to Chapter 57 of title 5, 
United States Code. It is entitled, ``Limits and transparency 
for travel and conference spending.''
          Definitions--The terms ``conference'' and 
        ``international conference'' are defined.
          International Conference Rule--Agencies are 
        prohibited from paying travel expenses for more than 50 
        U.S. stationed-employees to attend any international 
        conference. A waiver can be granted by the Secretary of 
        State.
          Report on Travel Expenses Required--Each agency is 
        required to post on a quarterly basis on its website a 
        report on each conference for which it paid travel 
        expenses during the preceding three months. Each 
        conference report is required to include several 
        required elements, to include itemized expenses paid by 
        the agency, including travel expenses, and any agency 
        expenditures to otherwise support the conference. For 
        conferences for which the agency is the primary 
        sponsor, the report is to include a statement that: 
        describes the cost to the agency of selecting the 
        specific conference venue; describes why the location 
        was selected; demonstrates the cost efficiency of the 
        location; provides a cost benefit analysis of holding a 
        conference rather than a teleconference; and describes 
        any financial support from a private entity used to 
        defray the cost of the conference.
          Format and Publication of Report--Each report is to 
        be in a searchable electronic format and shall remain 
        on the agency website for at least 5 years after the 
        date of posting.
    (b) The table of sections for chapter 57 of title 5, United 
States Code, is amended.
    (c) Annual Travel Expense Limits--
          Annual travel expenditures by each agency (as defined 
        under section 5701 of title 5, United States Code) for 
        each of fiscal years 2013 through 2017 are limited to 
        70 percent of the amount the agency spent on travel in 
        fiscal year 2010.
          Identification of Travel Expenses--The Office of 
        Management and Budget, in consultation with the General 
        Services Administration, and the Administrative Office 
        of the United States Courts, is to establish guidelines 
        no later than December 31, 2012, for determining what 
        expenses constitute travel expenses. The guidelines are 
        to establish specific expenses, and classes of 
        expenses, to be treated as travel expenses. The 
        guidelines are to exclude military travel expenses from 
        the definition of travel expenses. Military expenses 
        are to include travel expenses involving military 
        combat, the training or deployment of uniformed 
        military personnel, and other travel expenses as 
        determined in the guidelines.
    (d) Conference and Transparency Spending Limits--
          ``Agency'' and ``conference'' are defined.
          Each agency is directed to post on its public website 
        detailed information on any presentation made by any 
        employee of the agency at a conference, except to the 
        extent that the agency head excludes such information 
        for reasons of national security.
          Agencies are prohibited from spending more than 
        $500,000 to support a single conference.

                       Explanation of Amendments

    At the June 27, 2012 Full Committee Business Meeting of the 
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Walsh 
offered an amendment in nature of a substitute to H.R. 4631 
which, generally, incorporated provisions of H.R. 2146 and S. 
1789. The amendment in nature of substitute offered by Rep. 
Walsh is described above.

                        Committee Consideration

    On June 27, 2012, the Committee met in open session and 
ordered reported favorably the bill, H.R. 4631, as amended, by 
voice vote, a quorum being present.

              Application of Law to the Legislative Branch

    Section 102(b)(3) of Public Law 104-1 requires a 
description of the application of this bill to the legislative 
branch where the bill relates to the terms and conditions of 
employment or access to public services and accommodations. 
This bill reduces non-mission critical travel spending by 
limiting annual travel spending by each federal agency, and 
requires greater transparency of travel and conference-related 
expenditures.
    As such this bill does not relate to employment or access 
to public services and accommodations.

  Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the Committee

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

         Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives

    In accordance with clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee's performance 
goals and objectives are reflected in the descriptive portions 
of this report.

                     Federal Advisory Committee Act

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not establish 
or authorize the establishment of an advisory committee within 
the definition of 5 U.S.C. App., Section 5(b).

                       Unfunded Mandate Statement

    Section 423 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment 
Control Act (as amended by Section 101(a)(2) of the Unfunded 
Mandate Reform Act, P.L. 104-4) requires a statement as to 
whether the provisions of the reported include unfunded 
mandates. In compliance with this requirement the Committee has 
received a letter from the Congressional Budget Office included 
herein.

                         Earmark Identification

    H.R. 4631 does not include any congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in 
clause 9 of rule XXI.

                           Committee Estimate

    Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires an estimate and a comparison by the 
Committee of the costs that would be incurred in carrying out 
H.R. 4631. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) of that rule provides 
that this requirement does not apply when the Committee has 
included in its report a timely submitted cost estimate of the 
bill prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act.

     Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and with respect 
to requirements of clause (3)(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives and section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has received 
the following cost estimate for H.R. 4631 from the Director of 
Congressional Budget Office:

H.R. 4631--GSA Act of 2012

    H.R. 4631 would require agencies to provide quarterly 
reports to the Congress about meetings or events involving 
travel expenses paid with federal funds. Over the 2013-2017 
period, the bill would restrict agencies' authority to obligate 
funds for travel expenses (other than military travel) to 70 
percent of the amount spent on travel costs in 2010. In 
addition, under the legislation, agencies would be prohibited 
from spending more than $500,000 to support a single 
conference. Finally, H.R. 4631 would require agencies to post 
any presentation materials provided at a conference sponsored 
by an agency or attended by federal employees on their Web 
sites so it would be available to the public.
    CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 4631 would have no 
significant net impact on the budget over the 2013-2017 period. 
We expect that there would be some minor additional 
administrative costs for agencies to report on their travel 
expenses to the Congress and to post materials on Web sites. In 
2010, civilian agencies spent about $6.5 billion on travel 
expenses. By limiting the ability of agencies to obligate funds 
for travel costs over the 2013-2017 period to 70 percent of the 
amount spent in 2010, the legislation would likely shift 
spending on travel to other categories, such as 
telecommunications and computer technologies. CBO expects, 
however, that such a limitation on travel expenditures would 
not result in significantly less total spending by federal 
agencies. Any change in costs as a result of implementing H.R. 
4631 would depend on the amounts provided in future 
appropriation acts.
    The bill could affect direct spending by agencies not 
funded through annual appropriations; therefore, pay-as-you-go 
procedures apply. CBO estimates, however, that any net change 
in spending by those agencies would not be significant. 
Enacting H.R. 4631 would not affect revenues.
    H.R. 4631 would impose intergovernmental mandates as 
defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) by limiting 
the District of Columbia's spending on travel to 70 percent of 
the amount expended in 2010, by prohibiting the District from 
paying for travel expenses of more than 50 employees to attend 
an international conference--unless approved by the Department 
of State, and by requiring the District to post information on 
its Web site about conferences that its employees attend. CBO 
estimates that the costs of the intergovernmental mandates 
would be small and would not exceed the threshold established 
in UMRA ($73 million in 2012, adjusted annually for inflation). 
H.R. 4631 contains no private-sector mandates as defined in 
UMRA.
    The CBO staff contacts for this estimate are Matthew 
Pickford (for federal costs) and Elizabeth Cove Delisle (for 
the impact on state and local governments). This estimate was 
approved by Peter H. Fontaine, Assistant Director for Budget 
Analysis.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (new matter is 
printed in italic and existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

TITLE 5, UNITED STATES CODE

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PART III--EMPLOYEES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBPART D--PAY AND ALLOWANCES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


          CHAPTER 57--TRAVEL, TRANSPORTATION, AND SUBSISTENCE


    SUBCHAPTER I--TRAVEL AND SUBSISTENCE EXPENSES; MILEAGE ALLOWANCES

Sec.
5701. Definitions.
     * * * * * * *
5712. Limits and transparency for travel and conference spending.
     * * * * * * *

SUBCHAPTER I--TRAVEL AND SUBSISTENCE EXPENSES; MILEAGE ALLOWANCES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 5712. Limits and transparency for travel and conference spending

  (a) Definitions.--In this section:
          (1) Conference.--The term ``conference'' means a 
        meeting, retreat, seminar, symposium, or event to which 
        an employee travels 25 miles or more to attend, that--
                  (A) is held for consultation, education, 
                discussion, or training; and
                  (B) is not held entirely at a Government 
                facility.
          (2) International conference.--The term 
        ``international conference'' means a conference 
        occurring outside the United States attended by 
        representatives of--
                  (A) the Government of the United States; and
                  (B) any foreign government, international 
                organization, or foreign nongovernmental 
                organization.
  (b) International Conference Rule.--An agency may not pay the 
travel expenses for more than 50 employees of that agency who 
are stationed in the United States, for any international 
conference, unless the Secretary of State determines that 
attendance for such employees is in the national interest.
  (c) Report on Travel Expenses Required.--At the beginning of 
each quarter of each fiscal year, each agency shall post on the 
public website of that agency a report on each conference for 
which the agency paid travel expenses during the preceding 3 
months that includes--
          (1) the itemized expenses paid by the agency, 
        including travel expenses, and any agency expenditures 
        to otherwise support the conference;
          (2) the primary sponsor of the conference;
          (3) the location of the conference;
          (4) in the case of a conference for which that agency 
        was the primary sponsor, a statement that--
                  (A) describes the cost to the agency of 
                selecting the specific conference venue;
                  (B) describes why the location was selected, 
                including a justification for such selection;
                  (C) demonstrates the cost efficiency of the 
                location;
                  (D) provides a cost benefit analysis of 
                holding a conference rather than conducting a 
                teleconference; and
                  (E) describes any financial support or other 
                assistance from a private entity used to pay or 
                defray the costs of the conference, and for 
                each case where such support or assistance was 
                used, the head of the agency shall include a 
                certification that there is no conflict of 
                interest resulting from such support or 
                assistance;
          (5) the date of the conference;
          (6) a brief explanation of how the participation of 
        employees from such agency at the conference advanced 
        the mission of the agency;
          (7) the title of any employee, or any individual who 
        is not a Federal employee, whose travel expenses or 
        other conference expenses were paid by the agency; and
          (8) the total number of individuals whose travel 
        expenses or other conference expenses were paid by the 
        agency.
  (d) Format and Publication of Report.--Each report posted on 
the public website under subsection (c) shall--
          (1) be in a searchable electronic format; and
          (2) remain on that website for at least 5 years after 
        the date of posting.

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