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Working for a Federally Funded Research and Development organization for the last eight years has been a great foundation for understanding government travel and its’ idiosyncrasies. As I fought my way through JTR language and GSA restrictions, I’ve learned a lot about government travel policy, eligibility and procedures. Although my organization is not eligible for all government specialties, we must follow many of the GSA and JTR regulations when arranging travel.
The downside of not being eligible for many of the special discounts that government travelers are entitled to is our costs are much higher and constantly questioned by auditors. FFRDC’s and government contractors are no longer eligible for the GSA City Pair Program or car rental programs, which means our travel costs can be more than double of their traveling sponsors. Even with significant negotiated discounts with preferred vendors, our rates can be much higher.
One of the areas that we have been successful in controlling costs is our hotel spend. About two years ago, we introduced our employees to the FedRooms Program. This program has allowed our employees to book hotels at GSA per diem rates without having to book months in advance or search endlessly for government lodging rates with no success.
The Fedrooms program has helped us to demonstrate how much was being booked over per diem due to lack of availability for contractors and FFRDC’s.
Since the introduction of FedRooms, our hotel spend has decreased significantly due to the availability of GSA rates. During the first year we saved over $100,000 in “over per diem” spend. Our total nights over per diem dropped approximately 3,500 room nights in that same year.
It’s nice to know that there are programs that benefit contractors who are trying to control costs just as much as the government, and we will continue to seek others to help control our costs too.
by Stefanie Tretola