October 16, 2012
The Department of Energy's Management of Foreign Travel
The Department of Energy (Department) and its workforce of 116,000 Federal and contractor personnel have numerous international exchanges and interactions at different levels and for a variety of important programmatic and other purposes. According to the Department's centralized travel database, the Foreign Travel Management System (FTMS), Federal and contractor employees made approximately 109,000 individual international trips at a cost of about $360 million from Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 through FY 2012— a 6-year period. Consistent with the Department's organizational structure and its significant reliance on contractor assistance, the vast majority of these taxpayer-funded trips, in fact about 85 percent, were taken by contractor employees. This equates to over 90,000 contractor employee foreign travel trips in the period with a cost to the government of just over $300 million. Despite the sizable expenditure of Federal funds, the Department had not made a concerted effort to reduce contractor international travel costs. In particular, we found that the FTMS was not being fully utilized to identify overall trends in foreign travel, potential wasteful practices, and possible strategies to reduce the Department's international travel expenditures. Further, while the Department implemented a mandatory 30 percent reduction in Federal employee travel, management officials informed us that parallel action had not been taken to manage or control foreign travel by contractors. Based directly on the information sourced from the FTMS, had the Department applied the 30 percent reduction criteria to the international travel costs incurred by its 100,000 contractor workforce, as much as $15 million could be saved each year. In response to our immediate concern, Department management concurred with our recommendations and proposed and initiated corrective actions to assess and reduce international travel expenditures.
Topic: Management & Administration