Impact study and report results on conference travel released

February 17, 2016

ADELPHI, Md. -- "Science is a field which grows continuously with ever expanding frontiers. Further, it is truly international in scope. ... Science is a collaborative effort. The combined results of several people working together is often much more effective than could be that of an individual scientist working alone," said John Bardeen, American physicist and electrical engineer.

By the request of the United States Government, PMIC Incorporated, a global management consulting firm, has released findings on research concerning the extent to which government science and technology compliance with the OMB 12-12 restrictive travel policy impacts mission-critical outcomes in health, safety and national security and defense.

In addition, the report addresses the broad consequences over time to the U.S. national economy, workforce and global technology leadership if the government S&T community remains subject to the restrictive travel policy.

According to the report, "PMIC's findings indicate that restrictive conference and travel policy threatens to undermine the nation's international scientific, technical and economic leadership status. The absence of U.S. Government scientists creates a void in global innovation and collaboration that will likely be filled by our competitors unless we act swiftly and decisively to remediate damage and mitigate inevitable further risk to government S&T force mission-critical goals attributable to restrictive travel policy."

PMIC recommends that government S&T be exempt from the OMB 12-12 restrictive travel policy based on two key facts.

First, technical and professional society conferences provide mission-critical venues for face-to-face interaction that cannot be replaced by remote methods such as telecom or web-based sessions.

Second, the risk of malfeasance on the part of government S&T members as it pertains to conference travel is extremely low, while the return on investment of their collaboration is extraordinarily high.

According to U.S. Army Research Laboratory Chief Scientist Dr. Joe Mait, while the release of this report is a step in the right direction as it concerns conference travel policy, it does not change the present situation for ARL employees with regard to conference travel restrictions and the concern of timeliness when it comes to attendance approval.

Presently, Mait signs all travel requests submitted to the Research, Development and Engineering Command and Army Materiel Command for review.

"The report validates that conference travel is part and parcel of the scientific process and that failure to alleviate the pressures from the policy, in the long term, is detrimental to the nation's health, safety and security," Mait said. "The report is useful from the standpoint of educating congressional leaders and policymakers on how we do what we do and why what we do is important to the nation."

Although the Army has revised its policy on conference travel in response to Secretary of Defense Carter's September memorandum on the issue, it requires a signature from the Secretary of the Army before it can be released and implemented. Congressional confirmation of a permanent Secretary is pending.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is the nation's premier laboratory for land forces and is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it.

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Last Update / Reviewed: February 17, 2016