From: Goddard Space Flight Center
Posted: Saturday, October 18, 2008
From: Nicholas E White
Date: October 7, 2008 1:01:46 PM EDT
Subject: [600_gov] Conference Travel
The 2009 NASA authorization bill that has been passed by Congress and is awaiting signature by the President contains a stipulation that NASA conference travel cannot exceed $5M. As I am sure you can guess, this is well below by many factors what is typically spent by the agency. How much below depends on who is included in this and the definition of what constitutes a conference. These details are still being worked by HQ. But even in the best case, the impact on us will still very high.
I know this will create a lot of angst in the workforce. And this email is the first of several to keep you informed as to how we are working this issue.
1) I want to assure you that this issue is receiving the highest attention at the center. Our Center Director Rob Strain has been engaged from the start and fully realizes the negative impact this limit will have on the ability for scientists in particular to do their job. As well on the rest of the center. Rob and the executive council, myself and code 600 are fully engaged in the discussions as to the best way to work this.
2) HQ has put a temporary hold on all conference travel or organization of conferences that will utilize FY09 funds. This is temporary to ensure that we do not use up the $5M without before a process to manage this can be put in place.
3) If you are using FY08 funds or reimbursable funds then your travel is not impacted. And can proceed. We are looking at the available FY08 funds to see what can be done to allow conference travel to proceed for the next month or so. If you are planning conference travel in the next month, please work with your financial folks to make sure you have FY08 dollars to cover this.
4) We need to get an idea of how much travel will be planned using FY09 dollars, so when the $5M is divided up, we can both demonstrate the impact and make sure we get our fair share. So I have asked the Divisions to get an assessment by the end of next week. Please cooperate with collecting this information.
5) Do not use FY09 funds to pay registration fees or other advanced costs for conferences. If possible hold off making any commitments to future meetings, until we put in place a process to deal with this.
6) If you are in doubt as to what constitutes a conference, please talk to your management to get clarification.
In terms of who is covered by the restriction, it is not 100% clear. Civil service travel clearly is in. And JPL is definitely included. But for travel under grants and contracts we are still waiting to hear. If you organize a conference on site here at GSFC it probably is NOT included - so long as you do not charge a registration fee or provide food (we will get clarification as to what that exactly means).
Finally, we all appreciate the negative impact this will have on morale here at the center. It is unfortunately one of those things that occasionally comes up that we have to deal with. I am sure in the long term we will get through this and eventually "normal service" will be resumed. In the meantime, please be patient and understanding as we work this.
Also I would caution all civil servants not to use official email or other government equipment to write or communicate with Congress about this.
Nicholas E. White
Director, Sciences and Exploration Directorate
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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