US government conference spending decreased 15.7% in 2017 after four consecutive years of growth

US government conference spending for fiscal year 2017 decreased 15.7% after four consecutive years of growth, according to an analysis by STR’s Market Insights team. The benchmarking specialist found total conference spend in 2017 was USD140 million, down from the government expenditure of USD166 million in 2016.


Summary:

  • US government conference spending for fiscal year 2017 decreased 15.7% after four consecutive years of growth, according to an STR analysis;
  • Total conference spend in 2017 was USD140 million, down from the government expenditure of USD166 million in 2016 and roughly half of the level spent in 2012;
  • The 2017 spending covered 507 conferences with approximately 108,000 total attendees, an average of 218 attendees and USD275,208 in spending.

The data for the analysis is based around conferences with a minimum total net cost of USD100,000 of taxpayer money, which Memorandum 12-12 from the Office of Management and Budget requires to be reported publicly.

Although the 2017 level of spending was markedly down on the previous year, it was still up on the levels recorded in the preceding three years, part of the four years of consecutive growth. All were down on the levels recorded in 2012, the peak year of the analysis.

CHART – Although the 2017 level of conference spending was markedly down on the previous year, it was still up on the levels recorded in the preceding three yearsSource: STR

“The last decrease in the industry came after reports of reckless spending by certain government departments in 2012,” explains Chris Klauda, STR’s senior director of Market Insights. “That year (2013), entire industry spending dropped by nearly two-thirds following Memorandum 12-12.”

Aside from the decrease in 2017, another interesting finding from the study was that several agencies appear to no longer report their conference spending after reports were made public consistently for the previous five years and impacting the data. “That is likely due to loosened enforcement of public expenditure reporting from Memorandum 17-08,” explains Mr Klauda.

To partly overcome this issue STR used a comparable set of agencies from previous years to draw historical comparisons due to the lack of spending reports from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and Department of the Interior.

CHART – The Department of Defense had by far the most conferences in 2017, while the Department of Justice and Department of the Treasury notable spent much less than others per conferenceSource: STR

Key findings from its analysis of spending from 1-Oct-2016 through 30-Sep-2017 include:

  • Total spending dropped USD26.1 million from 2016 to 2017;
  • Spending on government conferences was roughly half of the USD274 million spent in 2012;
  • 2017 spending covered 507 conferences with approximately 108,000 total attendees;
  • 2017 federal conferences averaged 218 attendees and USD275,208 in spending;
  • Washington DC, remains the most popular location for federal meetings, followed by Orlando, Florida;
  • Each year since 2012, the greatest conference costs were incurred by the Department of Defense, Department of Veteran Affairs and Department of Health and Human Services.