After a two-year freeze, per diems for work-related federal travel are going up slightly, according to the General Services Administration.
The standard rate for lodging will increase from $77 to $83, while the standard rate for meals and incidental expenses will remain unchanged. The changes take effect at the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
About 400 nonstandard areas — including many large cities federal employees often travel to for work — will have higher per diem rates. However, 29 locations that previously qualified for the nonstandard rates will be moved back into the standard category, including Greenville, S.C.; Hagerstown, Md.; Winston- Salem, N.C.; and Jacksonville, Fla.
The per diem rates established by GSA set the maximum amount for which federal employees can be reimbursed for lodging and meal expenses while on official travel.
GSA froze per diems for 2013 at the prior year’s levels, citing administration guidance that directed agencies to cut travel and conference spending. Coming in the wake of the revelations of over-the-top spending on a lavish Las Vegas conference by GSA, the Office of Management and Budget directed agencies to spend 30 percent less on travel expenses beginning last year.
In a blog post announcing the new per diem rates, Anne Rung, head of GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy, said the agency is working to continue finding travel savings. Starting next year, for example, GSA will eliminate the “Conference Lodging Allowance,” which allowed feds to spend 25 percent more than per diem rates for conferences.
“These actions are a part of GSA’s ongoing commitment to responsible spending,” Rung wrote.
Governmentwide, agencies have reduce travel spending by $2 billion since the OMB memo went into effect, Rung said.
The recently stood-up Government- wide Travel Advisory Committee (GTAC), made up of federal employees and the travel industry, is also adivising GSA on travel regulations.