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U.S. Geological Survey Instructional Memorandum

No. OFM 2001-05

Date: September 7, 2001

Subject: Conference Planning Allowance and Refreshments Involving Travel

The purpose of this Instructional Memorandum (IM) is to provide implementing guidance for travel-related conferences and the authorization to provide light refreshments under certain circumstances. The following issues are addressed in detail in this IM:

1. Definition of Conference and Conference Approval Process

  1. Definition: For the purposes of this IM, a conference is a meeting, retreat, seminar, symposium, or event that requires attendees to travel away from their duty station and be placed in an authorized per diem status. It also includes training provided the following criteria are met: the announced purpose of the conference is educational or instructional; more than half of the time is scheduled for a planned, organized exchange of information between presenters and audience; the content of the conference is germane to improving individual and/or organizational performance, AND development benefits will be derived through the employee's attendance.

  2. Approval Process: A conference involving 30 or more employees must be approved by the Deputy Assistant Secretary Water and Science. Requests for conference approvals should be sent from the planning office, through the appropriate Regional Director, to the Deputy Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for forwarding to the Deputy Assistant Secretary Water and Science.

2. Conference Lodging Allowance

A conference of 30 or more attendees may justify using the CLA. However, the CLA will not be permitted for a conference sponsored or co-sponsored by DOI and attended by fewer than 30 participants. When DOI is not a co-sponsor and a sponsoring or co-sponsoring Federal agency sponsor has determined that the payment of the CLA is required and prudent, the USGS employees attending the conference may be authorized the CLA. Also, a travel-authorizing official may deem the CLA necessary to defray lodging costs associated with a conference sponsored by a non-Federal source.

The CLA may not exceed 125 percent of the lodging portion of the established General Services Administration (GSA) locality per diem rate and does not provide for an increase in the meals and incidentals (M and IE) allowance. Lodging taxes are not included in the CLA unless the conference is held at a foreign location.

An approval comment must be entered on the travel voucher and signed by the approving official (same procedure as claiming increased per diem) when claiming the CLA.

3. Light Refreshments at Conferences

  1. Criteria: The following requirements must be met before light refreshments may be provided at an approved DOI-sponsored conference under the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) where a fee is not charged to cover the administrative cost.
    1. The conference must be approved by the Deputy Assistant Secretary - Water and Science.
    2. Conference attendees must only be Government employees (except in situations where a small number of non-Federal participants are requested to speak, or otherwise actively participate in the conference at the invitation of employees of DOI).
    3. There must be at least 30 attendees at the conference; and
    4. A majority of the attendees must be in travel status.

    The Office of Acquisitions and Grants has prepared a 'decision tree' to be used when determining if refreshments can be procured with appropriated funds. The Website is http://internal.usgs.gov/ops/acquisition/h3distnc.html located under Refreshments. (NOTE: this website is internal to the U.S. Geological Survey. If you are unable to view the information from this link please contact the Office of Financial Management at (703) 648-7601 for information.)

    As a general rule, Federal agencies are not to provide light refreshments at conferences where there are non-Federal attendees -- unless the cost of providing the refreshments was included in a registration fee that will recover the cost. An exception to this general rule will apply in situations where a small number of non-federal participants are requested to speak, or otherwise actively participate in the conference at the invitation of an employee of DOI. In such instances, when it was determined during the conference planning process that providing light refreshments was prudent -- then all participants can partake.

  2. Allowance for Refreshments

    The maximum amount spent for light refreshments may not exceed 30% of the M and IE rate per day for each attendee at the conference.

  3. Documentation Required when Providing Light Refreshments at a Conference

    The minimum documentation to support furnishing refreshments include:

    1. A copy of the Deputy Assistant Secretary's approval to hold the conference including the determination that providing refreshments was prudent; and
    2. An attendance log showing the name and duty station of each attendee.

4. Attendance by DOI Employees at Conferences Sponsored by Others.

The CLA will not be permitted for a conference sponsored or co-sponsored by DOI and attended by fewer than 30 participants. When DOI is not a co-sponsor and a sponsoring or co-sponsoring Federal agency sponsor has determined that the payment of the CLA is required and prudent, the DOI employees attending the conference will be authorized the CLA. In addition, a travel-authorizing official may deem the CLA necessary to defray lodging costs associated with a conference sponsored by a non-Federal source.

5. Authorities and References

The departmental policy (Financial Administration Memorandum (FAM) FAM 2001-011 dated July 25, 2001) is Attachment 1 and is also available at http://www.doi.gov/pfm/fam01-11.html.

Attachment 2 of the referenced FAM contains the GSA's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the topic of conference planning and light refreshments and is also available at http://policyworks.gov/org/main/mt/homepage/mtt/FAQCONFERENCE.html.

The GSA's travel planning guidance is available at http://policyworks.gov/org/main/mt/homepage/mtt/FTR/appndxe.html.

All of the related documents on this subject are posted on the USGS Travel Management Branch website at http://internal.usgs.gov/ops/finance/travel.html (NOTE: this website is internal to the U.S. Geological Survey. If you are unable to view the information from this link please contact the Office of Financial Management at (703) 648-7602 for information.)

Questions concerning the information in this IM should be directed to Susan Sheely at ssheely@usgs.gov or (703) 648-7602.

/s/ John J. Blickley, Chief
Office of Financial Management

Attachments:
Attachment 1
Attachment 2


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Last modification: 11-Jan-2013@10:57 (km)