Apparently the answer to this question is well known to the U.S. government. While I have endeavored to stay out of politics since my years spent lobbying in D.C., this item is begging for me to rant about it.
Katie Bascuas’ reports in Associations Now that the Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act (H.R. 2643), sponsored by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, (R.-PA.) “calls on the Office of Management and Budget to use videoconferencing in order to reduce travel expenses by 50% from 2013 levels, or by the greatest amount OMB finds feasible, by 2017, according to The Hill.”
This is, of course, all about more reports of “lavish conferences”. The bill encourages videoconferencing to enhance communication and problem solving. Stated byproducts will be shortened project timelines, efficiency, improved collaboration and work-life balance. REALLY?
Could some conference attendance be virtual? Of course. But absolutely nothing can replace face-to-face networking. I am a staunch believer in the long-held belief that “When People Meet, Business Happens”. The organizations that cut their travel budgets during the recent recession found out the hard way that when you don’t engage in face-to-face interaction, a loss of collaboration and market share is inevitable.
Instead of work-life balance that the bill cites will be a by-product, I call for a modicum of common sense. Benchmark government conferences against industry counterparts. Supplement some travel with videoconferencing and other virtual platforms, but for goodness sake, let’s not keep swinging this pendulum of government reaction from one extreme to the other. Real jobs and real people will be impacted by this bill. And, sadly, productivity and effectiveness of many government initiatives will be decreased.