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In Our Opinion — December 2011

Efficient Spending

On Nov. 9, President Obama signed an executive order entitled “Promoting Efficient Spending.” Though its focus is on the fiscal 2013 budget, the wheels are already in motion.

The order directs federal agencies to slash spending to 20 percent below 2010 levels — primarily in the areas of travel; document printing; federal-issued cell phones, smartphones, laptops and tablets; information technology (IT) services; and what is referred to in government as “swag” — promotional mugs, pins, apparel and other items given to attendees when participating in training conferences.

The crackdown is reportedly expected to reduce spending by an estimated $4 billion. Although agencies were not required to submit their spending reduction plans to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) till Christmas Eve, we have already seen how the president's directive has impacted the military marketplace.

As one example, in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) community, military training at the Athletic Business (AB) Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla., was canceled earlier this month.

Perhaps the most important component in the executive order is the encouragement of agencies to devise “strategic” alternatives to government travel, including teleconferencing and video conferencing. As part of the “efficient spending” edict in regard to travel, agencies are encouraged to make all efforts to host conferences in government-run facilities, “wherever practicable and cost effective.”

The Army had already taken the directive's goal to heart by deciding to hold its training for MWR golf professionals at the Army-operated Shades of Green Resort in Orlando, following the decision by the other services not to participate at next month's PGA Merchandise Show, also in Orlando.

One of the first major conferences in calendar year 2012 — and featured in this issue — is the PHMA's seminar and trade expo taking place in San Diego in late January.

Each year, nearly 1,400 military lodging and housing professionals get together to participate in educational sessions, interact one-on-one with vendors and network with colleagues, all for the sole purpose of enhancing the facilities they operate. At press time, it was still all systems go for the training event, with no plans whatsoever to scale back the seminar.

Catersource is another important event early on in calendar year 2012. It is an event during which military catering and club professionals participate in training sessions and meet with vendors to improve the events they host in their facilities. As of press time, there were no plans to scale back or cancel military training at the late-February event in Las Vegas.

On the lodging side, services hold their respective conferences throughout the year, provided that a travel budget is in place. These events provide invaluable training and networking opportunities for lodging managers, as well as award honors to their finest operations and employees, so it is critical that they continue.

We attended the recent Air Force Worldwide Lodging Managers Conference in New York City as part of the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show (IH/ M&RS) and witnessed first-hand the knowledge that these managers gained from participating — during the educational sessions as well as on the show floor. And honoring their colleagues during the Innkeeper Awards for lodging excellence helps develop the esprit de corps necessary to build a top-notch worldwide team.

We could only imagine what would happen if lodging, club and catering professionals could not attend conferences crucial to improving their operations for the benefit of servicemembers and their families.

Knowing that the federal purse strings will be tightened even further will undoubtedly have a ripple effect on whether or not training events take place over the next few months.

The executive order refers to agencies acting in a fiscally responsible manner “in order to perform these mission-critical functions in the most efficient, cost-effective way.”

Let's hope the baby is not thrown out with the bath water, and that the move toward efficient spending does not result in inefficiency in the quality-of-life arena.